Lack of immigration reform threatens California farmers

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And that's ultra ironic because, nationally, it has been GOP politicians — often representing farm belts — who have blocked and politicized immigration reform.

California farmers "are all over their legislators about not helping them," says Tom Nassif, president and chief executive of the Western Growers Assn. "But they don't punish their legislators for not helping them. They should make it clear that they need their support."

In November, Latino voters made it clear to Republican politicians — including presidential candidate Mitt Romney — that they didn't appreciate their immigration views. And that's why farm groups now see the best opportunity in many years for reform.

"I've said, 'Look folks, it's time to deal with this,'" Nassif says.

After Romney made his dumb, right-wing-pandering comment in a debate about the need for illegal immigrants to "self-deport," Nassif was brought in as one of the candidate's agriculture advisors.

"I told him he was going to be in trouble with Latinos if he didn't do something," Nassif recalls. "I advised him to do something about providing a legal workforce. But he felt better served by being more conservative."

We'll soon see whether Republican politicians have learned the political lesson.

If President Obama and Congress "don't come up with something in the next couple of months, the prospects for this year are not very good," says Pegg, who's wired into negotiations. "We'll be getting into the next election season."

There's momentum now. The issue is ripe for harvest.

george.skelton@latimes.com

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