Would you pick lettuce in Yuma?by Hugh Holub on May. 28, 2011, under border issues, immigration law reform, politics
People decry the “Reagan Amnesty”….but as one who was directly involved in dealing with a group of farm workers in Pinal County there are several important aspects that need understanding.
The farm in question had a group of workers show up every October for the season and they went home in the Spring. This went on for years. The workers belong to a Teamsters Union local….which was very interesting at the time. While I have no love for the Teamsters, the union was a much better deal for the farm workers than being captive to “labor contractors” who take as much as 50% of the worker’s wages for “services”.
All of the workers qualified for legal status because they ahd roots developed in the US…homes…children….and the union was very helpful in the process.
Prior to the ’80s we had a guest worker visa system…the “bracero” program where farm workers could come into the US, work for a while, and then go home. And they did. They did not move their families across the line.
But the “bracero” program was killed due to opposition from the AFL-CIO.
The problem was the concept of farm work jobs going to American citizens did not materialize. Like it or not most Americans will not work in the fields. Farms have tried to recruit American workers…and they are simply not there in the quantities needed.
So the immigrant farm worker pool was driven underground. With no legal path to come to the US and work for a while, the farm workers became “illegal”.
As the border tightened up, and farm workers had to start paying “coyotes” to cross, the back and forth movement of the farm workers stopped. Instead, they started migrating their families north.
The unintended consequences of eliminating the “bracero” program and tightening up the border and raising the cost of coming to the US for work increased the resident population of “illegal” aliens, brought entire families over, and made the “illegal” problem much worse.
The solution is obvious….create a new Guest Worker program so folks can come across, work, and go home. Eliminate the need to bring entire families across.
And while we’re at it, eliminate the abuse of “labor contractors”. If the worker is legally present, the farm can directly hire without fear of prosecution under state and federal labor laws. The need forn the “cover” and resulting abuse of “labor contractors” is eliminated.
Instead of fightring the workers, labor unions ought to see an opportunityn here. Farm workers need representation for bargaining for better wages.
But this is all blocked by fear of foreigners, anti-union sentiment, and a lack of understanding about how the agricultural business works.
There are reports that EuroFresh…a big green house produce operation north of Wilcox, Arizona, that tried its darnest to hire just legal workers. It failed because there simply aren’t the legal workers who want the work.
Then there are major problems with E-Verify. To rely just on that system which hasn’t had its bugs worked out is problematic. To implement a Guest Worker visa program means some serious reforms in the whole visa issuing and tracking process. A lot of noise has been directed at securing the border…which is necessary. But there is a decided lack of understanding about the problems in the visa and visa tracking program that needs attention.
But folks need to get over the claim that if illegal immigration is somehow halted that means more jobs for Americans. The reality is most Americans simply will not do the jobs that are available in the agricultural sector.
Would you pick lettuce in Yuma?