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Abstract

Agriculture was a major stumbling block to immigration reform, largely because Congress has been unwilling to assign explicit priorities to the competing goals of protecting American workers and admitting supplemental immigrant farmworkers. This paper explains the evolution and nature of California's labor-intensive agriculture, which has become dependent on immigrant workers; the Special Agricultural Worker or SAW legalization program that generated 1.3 million applications from unauthorized aliens who claimed to have done at least 90 days of farmwork in 1985- 86; and the hypothetical calculations required to determine whether Replenishment Agricultural Workers or RAWs will be admitted to do farmwork. The paper concludes that immigration reform did not resolve the century-old debate over agriculture's "need" for alien workers; instead, SAWs and RAWs have contributed to the harvest of confusion on farm labor.

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