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On an Arizona Ranch, A Push for Reform

In 1928, Selwyn Justice’s great-grandfather founded the 400-acre Justice Brothers Ranch in Waddell, a small town in Maricopa County, Arizona. Today, Justice, 28, is the fourth generation to manage the organic ranch’s 71-acre “five-season agriculture” business, which cultivates citrus fruits like grapefruits, navel oranges, and lemons, and bespoke fruit like mandarin/kumquat hybrids. The ranch also raises cattle.

In the congressional district where Justice resides, AZ-8, nearly 10 percent of residents are immigrants. Immigrants also make up nearly 20 percent of the district’s agriculture workforce.

In addition to five full-time employees, a seasonal laborer from Mexico with dual U.S. citizenship works at Justice’s ranch. He came to the ranch 20 years ago, and it took a full decade for him to obtain citizenship.

For Justice, the failure to reform the immigration system causes ongoing labor problems. Justice finds most Americans are unwilling to handpick crops, citing a prevailing attitude toward working the land in the United States. “Americans,” Justice says, “don’t give working on a farm the same kind of respect.”

 You’ve got people that want to work in a sector where there is a severe lack of employees. There is no reason to turn those people away.

As a member of the American Farm Bureau Federation, Justice works with a state-level Arizona Federation affiliate as well as the local Maricopa County Farm Bureau. The group meets regularly to discuss policy and opportunities to encourage lawmakers to expand programs that would help immigrant laborers come to the United States.

“The kind of stuff that comes up in our meetings regularly is how to push for reform that creates an expansion of programs that can reduce the burden on the people who are applying to come into the country to work and get jobs,” Justice says. “You’ve got people that want to work in a sector where there is a severe lack of employees. There is no reason to turn those people away.”

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