In an effort to assure that California’s enormous agricultural industry has the workers it needs, California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris co-authored with colleagues a bill to prevent alien farmworkers from being deported and, in fact, allow them to work toward citizenship. Expect the state’s agriculture businesses to be sympathetic to the bill.

That hasn’t occurred, yet. A press release issued by Sen. Feinstein with the introduction of the bill included a list of endorsers. On the list are a number of Latino and Hispanic groups, farm worker organizations and progressive associations. No business group is on the roll.

However, California’s prominent agriculture business association, Western Growers, offered guarded support for the direction the bill is moving. Western Growers President and CEO Tom Nassif released this statement:  “With the introduction of immigration legislation, the Senate elevates an issue often overlooked in the immigration reform debate: Retention of the existing agricultural workforce. To reform our broken immigration system, Congress must pass bipartisan solutions that acknowledge the contributions and value of current farmworkers while also creating a workable program to enable the future flow of labor to American farms.”

Passing a bill promoted so far by only minority party members of the senate won’t be easy. President Trump’s focus on the immigration issue makes it a hard vote for Republicans who see value in allowing those in the country illegally, who work the fields, to feel safe in their jobs.

The bill offers a road to citizenship, which could become a roadblock for some legislators. Given the shortage of workers in the fields, the agriculture industry may be a force to try and move Republican votes on that issue. There is also a chance an amendment to protect workers without offering citizenship might be made. Something Democratic senators would likely reject for political reasons.

The bill calls for agricultural workers who have toiled at least 100 days in each of the past two years to earn a “blue card” protecting them from deportation. If a worker maintains the blue card status of three to five years (depending on the hours worked), the worker can then apply for a green card or permanent status.

Feinstein’s press release pointed to a UC Davis study that asserts 70-percent of the state’s farmworkers, about 560,000 people, have no documents.

One issue in the immigration debate is whether violent or criminal aliens will be protected by a blanket policy. Trump, himself, said his goal it to remove criminal illegal aliens. The senators will point to one section of the bill that references the US Code allowing deportation of criminal aliens.

Farmers say despite wage increases, the pool of workers is shrinking and they feel the immigration debate will further strain the number of needed laborers.

While businesses generally want to stay on the good side of the president so as to push issues that boost the economy like tax reform, some businesses will resist if they think presidential moves damage the economy and hurt their businesses. We saw business pressure put on the president before he modified his stance on the North America Free Trade Agreement. Growers will also counsel the White House in trying to assure a supply of workers for the farms that feed the nation.