The Myth of the Lazy Gringo (Part 2)
“And on the eighth day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, ‘I need a caretaker.’ It had to be somebody who will plow deep and straight and not cut corners […] who will finish his forty-hour week by Tuesday noon, and then paining from tractor back, put in another seventy-two hours. So God made a farmer.”
I preface this column with Paul Harvey’s speech (1978 Future Farmers of America convention, Kansas City, MO) because it audaciously celebrates the Protestant work ethic that laid the foundation of America. Given the deluge of media stories anointing the illegal alien worker as the savior of Vermont’s dairy industry, we ought not forget that American workers built the world’s greatest nation.
No doubt, the left will condemn such rhetoric as racist, and xenophobic. Beguiled by twentieth-century European political thought, leftists believe that the United States is a malevolent force. Thus they reject fundamental American values, and dread that unchecked patriotism will lead to the rise of a North American Reich. Consequently, organizations that subscribe to this distorted ideology, like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Vermont-based Migrant Justice, demand that enforcement of US laws be met with contempt at best, and a salvo of anti-discrimination lawsuits at worst.
Indeed, trigger-happy activists have created a climate of fear for farmers in Vermont and across the country. Addison dairy farmer Alma Briggs explained, “It is against federal law to knowingly hire anyone present in the US illegally. We don’t want to violate the law, but if we look to verify details like social security numbers (SSN), the ACLU will sue us.” Fearing legal harassment from far-left groups, farmers are forced to accept documentation submitted by hired farmhands regardless of authenticity, i.e. the I-9 form (confirming employment eligibility) and the W-4 form (for federal income tax withholding). While anti-law enforcement advocates frequent the dairy farms to offer legal guidance to farmhands, Alma’s son Peter revealed that they could not afford comparable help.
In addition to abundant resources, illegal alien workers appear to enjoy considerable legal immunity. Peter recalled an incident when a DMV officer visited the farm to inquire about a fake SSN that a farmhand had provided to obtain a Vermont driver’s license. “Our employee was using a number that belonged to a US citizen. He committed identity fraud but faced no repercussions,” Peter stated plainly. Note that Americans convicted of Social Security fraud face up to five years in prison, or fines of up to $250,000, or both.
At the ACLU office in Montpelier, staff lawyer Jay Diaz (who has referred to state cooperation with federal immigration law enforcement as a “travesty of justice”) claimed that the DMV routinely “abuses its power” by providing information about illegal aliens to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). He dismissed my point that maintaining an unlawful presence in the US is a civil offense by alleging that illegal aliens sustain the dairy industry. “Vermonters can’t hack the hard farm labor. It’s a cultural issue,” Diaz laughed.
Lt. Governor David Zuckerman and activist Will Lambek of Migrant Justice similarly parroted the slander that Americans are too soft for farm labor in two articles, both unsurprisingly titled, “Fear on the Farm” (Seven Days, Feb. 15; CBC News, March 29). (Diaz emailed me a few days later to retract his remark about “cultural differences,” claiming he had said so “based on what [he] heard someone say on VPR”). In truth, the Center for Immigration Studies analyzed Census Bureau data on 472 occupations, and found that there are “no jobs Americans won’t do.” The report showed that native-born Americans form the majority in several job categories commonly associated with legal and illegal immigrants — janitors (73 percent), construction laborers (66 percent), taxi-drivers (58 percent), and maids/ housekeepers (51 percent).
Peter, who works around seventy hours a week on the farm, justifiably challenges the claim that Vermont’s dairy industry cannot survive without illegal, foreign help. “It’s not a cultural difference but an economic one. If illegal aliens could earn over $40,000 annually on welfare, like many Vermonters do, they would shun dairy work too.” Likewise, former dairy farmer James Maroney disputed the “canard” that illegal aliens are needed to “keep our large conventional dairy farms afloat.” “They are here because Vermont is an easier path to citizenship than Arizona, New Mexico, Texas or California,” (VTDigger; May 2013).
The leftist project to solicit compassion by romanticizing the righteousness of the illegal farmhand, while vilifying the American farmer, betrays striking ignorance or deliberate obscuring of human nature and its messy nuances. Ultimately, there is only pride in acknowledging that our farms stand on generations of American sweat and blood, and only honor in requiring that everyone follow the laws of our land.