Winemakers and grape growers have welcomed a judge’s block on President Bush’s crackdown on illegal immigrant workers.
US District Court Judge Charles Breyer blocked a programme last week that would have forced employers to fire as many as 8.7m workers whose Social Security numbers did not match official records.
According to industry representatives, the Department for Homeland Security programme could have crippled seasonal vineyard labour in California, where an estimated 3m illegal aliens reside.
Labour, civil rights and immigrants’ rights groups filed a lawsuit to stop the programme. The judge ruled it would do ‘irreparable harm to innocent workers and employers.’
Russell Fish, assistant winemaker at Wattle Creek Winery in Cloverdale, said that seasonal labourers are essential.
‘No one would say that we have a perfect situation, but we need their help, and they need the money,’ he told decanter.com. ‘In general, it would be bad news for the wine industry if we did not have people coming over for work. It would be great if they were all legal, but the system is not working.’
Nick Frey, president of the Sonoma County Wine Grape Commission, said the ruling was ‘good news.’
Karen Ross, president of the California Wine Grape Growers Foundation, backs Democratic legislation which would reform America’s guest worker programme.
‘The guest worker programme has not been reformed in over 50 years; it is very bureaucratic and not responsive to timelines,’ she said.
Written by Panos Kakaviatos