An analysis of how immigration enforcement is hurting agriculture in the U.S. was recently printed in The Christian Science Monitor.
Daniel Altschuler, a Copeland Fellow at Amherst College and author on immigration policies, noted how the recent Supreme Court rulings upheld aspects of the Arizona law to limit Latin American illegal immigration.
He contends the rulings “provided yet another sign that the drumbeat of immigration enforcement continues unabated. And with the nation on the cusp of summer, nowhere is the harmful impact of enforcement-only policies more evident than on America’s fruit and vegetable farms.”
He wrote that other states are trying to copy Arizona with laws that require businesses to use an "E-Verify" system and gives the state the right to suspend licenses from any business that knowingly hires undocumented workers.
Altschuler contends there has to be something more than “enforcement-only policies” that cause human tragedy with what he reports as a record number of deportations and detentions (roughly 400,000 annually under Obama) separating families and hurting communities.
“Second, particularly in labor-intensive agriculture, enforcement-only policies have a dire economic impact,” he wrote.
Altschuler used a state nearly as far away from Arizona as he could to illustrate his points. In upstate New York, illegal workers are extremely scared. Many undocumented workers still have jobs that must be filled on all types of farming operations including fruit, vegetable and dairy farms.
Government officers stake out Wal-Marts, check cashers and even churches; therefore, workers stay on the farms as much as possible, according to Altschuler.
“Growers are scared, too, and many no longer speak on-the-record. One vegetable producer, who requested anonymity, explained why: ‘Every time a farmer’s in the news, it seems like there’s a silent raid at their farm.’
“This silence is remarkable given that growers might otherwise be shouting at the costly interruption. A 2011 Farm Credit East report indicates that in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey and New York, nearly 1,700 farms are ‘highly vulnerable’ to bankruptcy or a shift to part-time production if labor supply disruption continues,” Altschuler wrote.
He summarizes his analysis by suggesting problems ahead for farmers and the nation. “Elected officials need to find a solution that works for growers, farmworkers and the economy. Otherwise, instead of ushering in a bountiful harvest, summer will come to stand for lost possibility on America’s farms.”