Bill Could Reap Citizenship for Migrant Farm Workers

Corn Field
TAMPA -

They pick the fruit and reap the harvest of the field - and do the backbreaking work that most of us shun. But the vast majority of Florida's migrant farm workers aren't even supposed to be in this country.

A bill filed by U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez is aimed legalizing the status of hundreds of thousands of farm laborers nationwide.

Martinez spokeswoman Jessica Garcia says the bill would create a stable - and legal - work force.

GARCIA: In Florida in 2006, citrus growers were literally leaving millions of boxes on trees, because they could not find the labor to pick the fruit. Some folks were offering up to $25 dollars an hour to find workers.

She says migrant farm workers will have to work hard to prove they're ready to become U.S. citizens.

GARCIA: Because the harvest season is only about 120 days a year, a worker will have to work for 100 days before they can eve go through the legal system of possible amnesty. We'll sort of have to forgive workers for how they got here, but it's a better way to track workers once they filter into the system.

Garcia says farm laborers would to work up to six years to apply for citizenship, but it would provide a guaranteed labor force. A similar bill passed the Senate last year, but died in committee before it could be voted on by the House.

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