Farmers need workers. For years there was an easy back-and-forth flow of workers across the border to pick crops. This is one of the reasons American agriculture is so strong. People without papers have lived here for years. They buy houses, cars and send their kids to school.
Currently, farmers and workers face new challenges. The traditional workforce is aging. As one producer said, “These people had been working for us for a long time, and we depended on them.” The children of farm workers want to go to schools. They do not want to work in the fields.
The menace ahead is border controls. The Trump goal is to reduce the number of those border-crossing workers even further.
What happens to the millions of dollars farmers invested in their fields? The crops in their fields are waiting for the picking. The people to pick them are not there. Farmers are getting scared. These farmers voted for Trump.
The biggest farmers rely on many undocumented workers to harvest their crops. Many of those farmers voted for Trump. Trump wants to deport undocumented workers and keep them from entering the country. The farmers will lose millions. And American consumers also will lose millions. They will pay more for fruit and vegetables at the market.
The E-verify program checks migrant papers. Most farmers do not use it. But they do worry that Trump will mandate the program. Farmers fear that it will cost them more workers.
What does the future hold? One answer is expanding the H-2A visa program. The H-2A is the guest-worker program. It means seasonal employment to those who pick the crops. Farmers are using it, but not enough workers are coming in. The program has to be bigger and easier to use. It looks like Trump will make the program smaller. He wants American workers to fill the jobs. Good luck, say the farmers.
Immigration reform is important. It is to make legal those workers who are already here. It is for those who have not committed any crimes. Farmers agree with deporting criminals. But they do not think driving with a broken tail light should be grounds for deportation. Trump is rejecting this idea of giving legal status to law-abiding migrant workers.
Source: The New York Times February 9, 2017