Migrant farm workers optimistic of immigration deal - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Migrant farm workers optimistic of immigration deal


As senators from the so-called "Gang of Eight" finish work on the overhaul to the nation's immigration laws, folks back in South Carolina are wondering just what will be included in the final proposal.

Many believe a path to citizenship will be included.

It's that facet of a potential bill that has immigrants like Manny Palma optimistic. Palma has been in the states since the 80's.

"The life in Mexico is real hard," said Palma. "It's not easy. Better jobs in the U.S. that pay more money. It's simple: more work. A better life I guess."

Just like his coworkers at Dixie Bell peaches, he came for a better life for himself and his family back in Mexico. -- a life Jimmy Forrest is happy to provide.

"We need the help, and when I say we I mean the American consumer," said Forrest.

Forrest owns the peach farm and has about 200 seasonal workers on temporary visas. He says it's simple: they do the work Americans won't.

"When I was a kid, we did the work they're doing and Americans had good work ethic," said Forrest. "Today that's not the case."

Forrest's workers come up for months at a time making $9.78 an hour, and he pays for their housing as well as their trips back and forth to Mexico. He says he would like to see a form of earned citizenship, but has doubts about how it would be paid for.

"Let's say he's some guy working at a farm in New York state, or any state. Are you all of a sudden going to accept him and make him a citizen when he's been here 20 years and he's 50 years old? And in 10 years he can draw Social Security even though he didn't put any in? I don't think so," said Forrest.

Conservative estimates say there are around 11 million illegal immigrants in the country. Palma thinks it's actually much higher. Something needs to change, but he disagrees with the idea that he and his countrymen are taking your job.

"You know you can go to the office and get an application. They'll probably last a couple of days working, but they're not going to like it. I don't agree with that, OK? Taking the jobs away from the Americans? I don't think so," said Palma.

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