Ventura County Board of Supervisors asked to urge protection of DACA recipients

2017-09-12 | Ventura County Star

Sept. 11--The Ventura County Board of Supervisors is being asked Tuesday to support federal legislation protecting thousands of area immigrants who came to the U.S. illegally as children from deportation and offer them a route to stay in the country permanently.

Supervisor John Zaragoza of Oxnard says it is wrong for humanitarian and economic reasons to deport individuals who enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA program. Under an action by President Donald Trump, the 5-year-old program would be phased out unless Congress rescues it.

"These young people were brought to this country illegally through no fault of their own," Zaragoza said in a proposal to the board.

The exodus also could undermine the county's $2 billion agricultural industry, he said.

He is calling for letters of support to be sent to the three congressional representatives for the county: Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Westlake Village; Rep. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale; and Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara.

Zaragoza wrote the letter on the heels of an announcement last week by Trump that his administration would phase out the program initiated by former President Barack Obama. Trump considers Obama's executive action unconstitutional. He gave Congress six months to legalize it, promising to revisit the issue if lawmakers don't act.

DACA offers temporary legal status to an estimated 800,000 immigrants who entered the country illegally as children. About 12,000 individuals in Ventura County are eligible, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

The program gives unauthorized immigrants who came to the United States before age 16 a chance to stay in the country to study or work under certain conditions.

In a letter to the county board, Agricultural Commissioner Henry Gonzales said the local agricultural economy could collapse if DACA enrollees and other undocumented farm laborers are deported.

It's unknown how many of the DACA immigrants work in the local agricultural industry or how many of their farmworkers parents would leave with them. Almost all of the immigrants in DACA are working or in school, studies show, and large numbers are pursuing college degrees.

John Krist, CEO of the Farm Bureau of Ventura County, said he did not know what the impact would be on agriculture.

"College students are not working in the field," he said. "They are not a critical component of our agricultural labor force."

Both Krist and Gonzales noted that the county is already facing a shortage of farm labor for other reasons. Job opportunities in Mexico have improved, border security has increased and the labor force is aging and retiring, Krist said.

Supervisors are scheduled to hear the proposal at 10 a.m. at their regular meeting in the board room of the Hall of Administration. The building is at the Ventura County Government Center, 800 S. Victoria Ave., Ventura.

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