There is truth in the statement that “there are some jobs American’s won’t do.” According to some American farmers, not only is this true, but they actively are seeking illegals to work for them because, they say, their business could not survive otherwise:
The apple trees were heavy with fruit, and the rows and rows of tomatoes, squash, and hot peppers were ripe for picking. But in the end, Gary and Patty Bartley, prizewinning farmers in western Michigan, had to leave $200,000 to $300,000 worth of their crops to rot in their fields last year.
They couldn’t find enough people to pick everything.
That was not for lack of trying. They had urged their domestic migrant workers to return, but only 12 did – about a third of the crew size they needed. The Bartleys placed ads in papers out of state and advertised all season with the Michigan state workforce development agency. Not a single person applied.
So this year they did something their lawyer had told them they should never do: enroll in an expensive and cumbersome visa program known as H-2A to bring up workers from Mexico.
Since the Michigan Farm Bureau set up a for-profit affiliate four years ago to provide guidance navigating the red tape, the number of Michigan growers using the program has jumped from four to 50. And the Bartleys’ lawyer, seeing the decline in migrant workers, changed her mind and became the lawyer for the affiliate, Great Lakes Agricultural Labor Services.
The challenge is that H-2As make a significant dent in farmers’ profits. The program costs $1,600 to $1,800 per worker in fees, plus the grower must provide free housing, linens, equipped kitchens, and regular transportation to buy groceries and other supplies.
“Nobody goes into H-2A because it’s fun or it’s cheap or it’s just a good time,” says Bob Boehm, program manager for Great Lakes Ag. “We’re trying to create an option where they can keep farming.”
The strong economy that has caused labor shortages in many industries has sharpened an already chronic problem in agriculture that dates back to 9/11, when heightened security concerns resulted in tighter border control. The domestic migrant workforce has been thinning out as parents approach retirement age, and their children pursue more lucrative work opportunities. And since many migrant laborers came to the United States illegally, they’re worried about crossing state lines and getting caught, especially since some states are more aggressive about cracking down on undocumented workers.
Another challenge: a tax-filing change in 1996, which critics of illegal immigration say has allowed undocumented immigrants to receive thousands more in tax credits than they pay in taxes each year – at a cost of $1.5 billion annually. With more benefits, immigrants may be less likely to work.
Farmers are desperate for the labor situation to be addressed. The H-2A program may be an increasingly popular stop-gap measure, but it’s not a long-term solution.
Growers are keeping a close eye on Congress as the GOP leadership puts forward immigration reform bills this week. (source)
This is why the illegal immigration issue is NEVER going to be solved, because it is an unalterable economic issue that makes for a useful political “football.”
Illegal immigrants are necessary for US agricultural policy, which is as important for domestic policy as it is for foreign policy. If the Roman policy of “bread and circuses” is as true today as in the past, which it is because human nature remains consistent, then cheap food is necessary to maintain a pacified society. Food exports can be used to create dependency of other nations of the USA, reducing the chance of opposition to US political and economic interests. Both require that food can be obtain and sold at a cheap price. Since the largest expense is labor, cutting out labor as much as possible keeps the price low.
Americans love their cheap food and love to spend. Spending requires money, and jobs that pay low do not facilitate spending, but frugality. Increased food also increases idleness, which means people do less work overall.
Mexicans and really, all peoples from Central America come from nations with extremely low average annual salaries. If one considers that the “average” annual wage in the USA is about 50K, the next highest is Costa Rica at around 6K and Mexico around 4K USD. The rest of the countries’ salaries such as for Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras plummet to levels comparable to sub-saharan Africa.
$5 an hour to pick fruit (of which most farms pay far more, but to assume low for the sake of argument) is a miserable wage for most Americans. But for a man from Guatemala, whose annual income is around $1400 USD a year, he can earn at this rate a YEARS worth of wages in just under two months.
For many people who have only known poverty for much of their lives, and knowing that their is a place not extremely far from where they live that will pay them several years worth of money and will be relatively free from the horrendous violence all to common to their nations, they believe it is worth risking their lives because it is the chance, in their minds, to find a new life.
And now to know that there are Americans who want them to come illegally?
It’s a businessman’s and politician’s dream come true.
In the words of Michael Corleone, “It’s not personal, it’s strictly business.”
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