Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Need a job?

It appears that the anti-immigrant moves within the U.S. are working, but alas, creating some unintended consequences. According to today's Washington Post, farmers in California cannot find enough laborers to pick their fall harvests. Why is it that able-bodied Americans have not rushed in to take advantage of these opportunities? Probably the same reason why citizens left farm labor years ago: it's back breaking work and pays poorly (and it always has).

Farmers quoted in the article explained the situation like this: as the border tightens and crossing becomes more dangerous, expensive and difficult, Mexican workers who once spent part of each year in American fields without a work permit are reluctant to back to Mexico, fearing that will not be able to return when they want to do seasonal work. As an alternative, they settle in the U.S., take year-round jobs that pay more and are less laborious than farm work. These jobs include construction, landscaping, and hotel service jobs.

There are other industries that offer low barrier to entry work which pays well. These industries also depend on immigrant labor and, "are also concerned about the overall availability of labor given demographic trends…" and added, “But agriculture is the warning sign, if you will, of structural changes in the economy."

2 comments:

rwk775 said...

I saw this article and I am sure the farmers are feeling the pinch right now but according to the U.S. Census Bureau, less than 800,000 people work in the agriculture sector in the entire United States including management. Why should the voters agree to import millions of workers for a few thousand agricultural jobs? The fact is the migrant workers of this country represent a hidden subsidy given to farmers by their urban and suburban neighbors in the form of health and education services for the illegal immigrants populating the rural towns. The farmers' arguments for increased immigration are similar to the arguments for retaining slavery in the middle of the 19th century.

Deb said...

You make several good points. The farmers want an oversupply of workers, as I'm sure you realize, because the work is grueling, and more workers equals lower wages. I would extend your position by saying that this is why we need comprehensive immigration reform, not simply piecemeal responses.

I also think the way agriculture does business is going to have change drastically before this issue is settled. We will most likely pay more for our groceries, but this is one of the sacrifices we have to make if we prefer to limit immigration and are also committed to ending the exploitation of agricultural workers.