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Governor Newsom unveils new legal services program for undocumented farmworkers

Official Seal of the State of California

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – On Wednesday, Governor Newsom announced a new $4.5 million pilot program to provide free immigration legal assistance to farmworkers actively involved in state labor investigations.

The new program includes case review services, legal advice, and representation by an attorney at no cost.

Eligibility for this pilot program's free legal services is limited to those with a case under review by the Department of Industrial Relations' Labor Commissioner's Office, the Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or the Agricultural Labor Relations Board.

According to the Governor's Office, around half of all farmworkers in California are undocumented, and that legal status can preclude reporting labor violations or providing testimony during investigations.

“Farmworkers are the backbone of our economy and we won’t stand by as bad actors use the threat of deportation as a form of exploitation," said Governor Newsom. "In the absence of Congress modernizing our broken, outdated immigration system, California continues our efforts to support immigrant families."

This state-based pilot program coincides with a Biden Administration policy change on deferred action for undocumented individuals who are victims of, or witnesses to, violations of labor rights across the country.

“Prosecutorial discretion ensures that farmworkers will be empowered to enforce their labor rights and stand up against the abuse and exploitation they often face,” said Diana Tellefson Torres, Chief Executive Officer of the UFW Foundation. “Undocumented farm workers – who form such a large and essential portion of our nation’s workforce – must be able to enforce their rights without the threat of immigration retaliation.  Additionally, it is of utmost importance that undocumented workers have access to free and low-cost legal services, so that any farmworker who has experienced workplace violations can come forward knowing they are protected from deportation. We are excited about the new pilot program and look forward to working with Governor Newsom to make it a success.” 

Legal service providers will be available based on farmworker population estimates and provider capacity detail the Office of Governor.

The new program will be administered through a partnership between the California Labor & Workforce Development Agency and the California Department of Social Services. Funding for the pilot is provided by existing budgeted resources and is expected to begin later this year.

Article Topic Follows: California
deferred action for undocumented individuals
Governor Newsom
labor violation investigations

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Andrew Gillies

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