America’s Farms and The Increase of Deportation.

In 2016 there were over 10.7 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States. Since 2016 the number of undocumented immigrants has decreased. With the election of President Trump in 2017, immigration laws have become stricter causing more undocumented immigrants to be deported. With the rise of deportation, the agriculture industry is struggling to find workers.

Photo by Chicago Sun Times

Most people are unaware that approximately 70% of workers in the agricultural industry are made up of undocumented immigrants. As more raids are being conducted, many farmers and their undocumented workers live in fear. If a raid is conducted on a particular farm the undocumented immigrants will be deported and the farm owners will be left with no employees. Without workers to help with the harvest a farm may go bankrupt or be forced to produce a smaller harvest.

The Atlantic featured an article called “Can America’s Farms Survive the Threat of Deportations?” This article featured a man named Luis. He is an undocumented immigrant living and working in the New York area on an apple farm. In the article Luis describes some of the fears he faces everyday. Undocumented immigrants, like Luis, are constantly afraid of being caught and deported back to their birth country. Luis originally decided to make the trip to America after continually facing violence in Guerrero, Mexico. He walked across Mexico with the help of a coyote, while suffering from dehydration and hunger, in the hopes for a new life.

The article also describes the point of view of a farmer named Pete. Pete owns the apple farm that Luis is employed at and is responsible for hiring other undocumented immigrants to work on his farm. In New York over half of the workforce on farms are undocumented immigrants. Pete mentions that people in society claim that “undocumented immigrants are taking our jobs.” He believes that if this were true he would have an easier time finding American citizens to work on his farm. If there were people out there looking for jobs, he would hire them, but there is not. Pete says “You can’t get a kid who can flip a burger to come here and do this job for $15 an hour.”

With the rise of deportation and stricter laws on who can enter the country, American farmers are struggling to find the staff to hire. In the next couple of years there is expected to be a shortage of crops. Farmers throughout the United States are having to plant less crops because when it comes time to harvesting, they won’t be able to get the help they need. With a shortage of crops being produced prices of food will rise.

Currently there is a temporary solution to the problem. Immigrants can apply for an H-2A Visa that allows them to come to the United States and work during harvesting season. This visa is a good solution to farmers, who can afford to offer housing, pay for travel, and pay for their work. The H-2A Visa is a solution to the problem for many farmers, but not all. Many farmers that specialize in livestock need workers around the clock. An immigrant with an H-2A Visa is only allowed to come for a short stay during harvesting season and then is expected to return back to their native country.

Photo by Journal Sentinel

In an article titled Employing Agriculture: How the Midwest Farm and Food Sector Relies on Immigration Labor, written by Stephanie Mercier, she proposes a solution called the Blue Card Visa. With the Visa that Mercier proposed, immigrants would be able to come to the United States. The Blue Card System would allow workers to gain temporary residence for those who work at least one hundred work days in a twenty-four month period. These work days must be strictly in the agriculture business. If the temporary resident stops working in the agricultural field, the residents temporary stay would be revoked.

The Blue Card System would also allow immigrants to obtain their Green Card, after working at least one hundred days for at least five of the eight years of obtaining their Blue Card. This new system is proposed to be much more efficient than the H-2A Program.

The H-2A Program has a lot of rules and regulations and only allows international workers to come during harvesting season. The Blue Card System would benefit the Midwest specifically due to the amount of livestock and dairy farmers. Dairy farmers require 24/7 staff to care for the animals and milk them on a strict schedule to produce maximum efficiency. With the Blue Card System international workers would be able to come to the U.S. and live here for several years at a time working in the agricultural industry.

Researchers in the Agricultural field have proposed granting more undocumented immigrants citizenship into the United States. This however would not be a solution to the problem. Many Americans are unwilling to work on farms because they can get the same amount of money elsewhere. If the United States were to grant more undocumented immigrants citizenship, it is likely that their outlook will become like most Americans. An undocumented immigrant who is granted citizenship, no longer has to worry about the fear of being deported. Without these worries, immigrants would be free to get any job they would like.

With the Blue Card Visa undocumented immigrants would be eligible for citizenship after they work several years on a farm. This program would fix the worker shortage that is occurring across many farms and eliminate fear that the undocumented immigrants face everyday. After an undocumented immigrant has worked enough time to be considered for a Green Card Visa, they can then become a permanent resident of the United States.

The agricultural industry is at risk and if a solution to the problem is not found, the general population will see a decrease in fresh produce across the United States.

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