In a groundbreaking new survey on the public’s views of agriculture and immigration, 70 percent of voters surveyed initially said they would support a streamlined and sensible guest worker program allowing immigrant farm workers to come into the country legally. In fact, a similar majority does not believe migrant workers cause unemployment or take jobs away from Americans. Those findings are from a new Western Growers survey conducted by The Tarrance Group, a well known and respected national polling firm.

(See Immigration reform heavily favored in survey)

The guest worker program in the survey includes: a requirement to first offer jobs to U.S. workers, restrictions on entry points and length of stay, market-based limitations on visas awarded, strict oversight of participating employers and withholding of worker payroll taxes. The program also allows existing workers to participate in the program without receiving amnesty.

“It is clear that American voters aren’t caught up in the harsh rhetoric claiming immigration reform should be about punishing hard working farm workers or leaving American family farmers without a work force. Americans know that we need a practical and well-regulated national program that allows immigrants to come out of the shadows to work here on our farms,” said Tom Nassif, Western Growers president & CEO.

“The fact of the matter is that Americans know farm work is and will continue to be done by foreigners, and they accept that reality. That’s why an overwhelming majority of voters in both parties support a smarter way for the federal government to handle agricultural guest workers who help produce the healthy food on our plates.”

The survey found overwhelming support from all likely voter groups including Republicans, strong Tea Party supporters, Democrats and Independents. Among self-identified Tea Party supporters, 70 percent surveyed are more likely to vote for a Congressional candidate if they support this sensible guest worker program.

More than 85 percent of survey respondents agree that both creating these legal channels for temporary immigrant farm workers, and developing the ability to register and track them will improve the nation’s security and allow for better control of the border, according to the Tarrance Group survey data.

Seventy-eight percent of likely voters favored withholding Social Security and Medicare taxes taken from the paychecks of temporary migrant farm workers. As an incentive, the program would refund Social Security taxes to the workers after they return to their home country. Medicare taxes would go towards covering any costs of treating uninsured patients in local hospitals.