Monday, August 8, 2011
AGRICULTURE HELD HOSTAGE AGAIN ON IMMIGRANTS
As the harvest of our nation's crops continues across the land, once again we are faced with the incongruity of our immigration laws with the availability of workers to perform those jobs.
Nowhere is this felt more acutely than in our vast agricultural industry. Fully mechanized crops such as wheat, corn, and cotton do not present the same challenges.
But all of the hand-harvested crops such as fresh table tomatoes, table grapes, peaches, nectarines, plums, strawberries, and vast numbers of similar crops demand an immediate availability of trained and committed workers to deal with those quick harvest times.
However, the current immigration laws and regulations do not allow for a quick response for qualified workers to perform those tasks.
Efforts to force farmers and growers to use E-Verify are ill-founded. Bryan Little, the director of labor relations for the California Farm Bureau Federation, has pointed out: "There is not another labor force out there for our industry other than the one we have now. And taking that away will create huge problems."
Rep. Lamar Smith [R-Texas] has proposed a bill that presumes that legal American workers are more than ready to take on the onerous jobs done now by illegal immigrants. But farmers and growers maintain that they are caught in the middle: they can't find documented workers willing to pick crops and take care of livestock. Making the farmers and growers use E-Verify would make it impossible to farm.
The present system relies on the H-2A provision to bring workers in from other countries. But the very concept and its past history show vividly how such a program will not work. Manuel Cunha is president of the Nisei Farmers League in Fresno and he points out that "H-2A is a disaster, and it doesn't work for California farmers."
Erik Nicholson, national vice president of the United Farm Workers union, has pointed out that "We need to provide the hundreds of thousands of workers who have been helping to build the agriculture economy with a way to gain legal status."
Once again, in one of the nation's top industries, it has been shown that piecemeal approaches to immigration reform do not work.
What is needed is a system which recognizes our need for special workers and to find a way to assist them to become legalized on a path to citizenship--creating an experienced and committed workforce for the future.
Our current immigration system is broken and cannot fulfill the needs of our country.