Carrying handpicked produce, hundreds of farm workers from across California converged at House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy’s Bakersfield office on Thursday to deliver a message on immigration reform: “I harvest for 10 hours a day. Can you take 10 minutes to schedule a vote?”
The farm workers, joined by immigration reform supporters, marched to McCarthy’s office. Once there, they lined up and took turns knocking on the office door to request a meeting with the Republican congressman. They also delivered different types of fruits, vegetables, nuts, wine and dairy products that they harvested in California.
The action was organized by the United Farm Workers.
In an interview with VOXXI, UFW President Arturo Rodriguez said McCarthy is the only member of Congress from the San Joaquin Valley, which is considered the nation’s richest agriculture region, who hasn’t taken a strong position on immigration reform and asked for a vote on the issue.
“The reality is that 70 percent, if not 80 percent, of farm workers in the United States today and within his district do not have documents,” Rodriguez said. “As a result, this should be the number one priority for him, and it makes no sense to us at all that he has not given us a vote on this issue in the House of Representatives.”
McCarthy has become a target for immigration reform supporters who want him to push for a vote on immigration reform legislation in the GOP-controlled House. They see him as a prime target not only because he is the third-ranking House Republican, but also because his district has a large Latino population. About 35 percent of those living in McCarthy’s district are Hispanic.
His district is also one of the nation’s top agriculture districts, and many of the farm workers who harvest there are undocumented.
McCarthy does support immigration reform. In January, he said in an interview with KBAK/KBFX Eyewitness News that he supports a path to legal status, not citizenship, for undocumented immigrants.
But UFW members say he has been relatively quite when it comes to pushing for a vote on immigration reform legislation. They also say they’ve made several requests to speak with McCarthy about the issue but have continuously been denied a meeting.
“We want to know why he is refusing to take action and why he is refusing to have a vote in the House of Representatives,” Rodriguez said. “We’re confident that if there is a vote tomorrow in the House of Representatives — even though the majority of the House is Republican — we are going to win on the issue of immigration reform.”
McCarthy’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Thursday’s action followed a civil disobedience action that took place in front of McCarthy’s office Wednesday night. Several advocates set up tents and risked arrest as a way to remind McCarthy that they plan to keep pressuring him on immigration reform until the House votes on legislation.
The action also came on the same day that farm workers from the Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste rallied in front of the office of Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.). They were there to call on the Republican congressman to push for a vote on immigration reform.