White House Issues Misleading Report on Agriculture’s Need for More Foreign Workers

Google+ Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr +

White House Issues Misleading Report on Agriculture’s Need for More Foreign WorkersThe Obama administration has issued another slick report urging adoption of the U.S. Senate’s version of comprehensive immigration reform (S.744) in order to meet the labor needs of agricultural producers. The report ignores the role of mechanized agriculture, and it ignores the current ability of farm employers to bring in an unlimited number of foreign workers to harvest their crops.

The report says, “But among all economic sectors, the U.S. agriculture sector is particularly reliant on foreign-born workers.” This statement misleads the reader to equate handpicked fruit and vegetables with the mechanized harvest of grains. The latter represents a much larger share of the nation’s agricultural production and exports. The changes proposed in S.744 would have virtually no effect on the grain production or exports.

The report continues, that to meet employers’ needs, “Among its most important provisions, the bipartisan bill would provide an earned path to citizenship [amnesty]for unauthorized farmworkers who are vital to our nation’s agriculture industry, and a new temporary worker program negotiated by major grower associations and farmworker groups.”

The report  misleads implying that seasonal crop employers are dependent on illegal alien workers. The H-2A visa program – discarded in the report as unworkable – allows an unlimited number of temporary workers. It is not liked by employers because it requires employers to hire U.S. workers first and attempts to stabilize wages that have been depressed by the employment of illegal workers.

The report also fails to recognize that the U.S. has fallen behind in mechanization in harvesting. This is due to the depressed wages caused by hiring illegal workers. If those workers were not available or not so cheap, employers would have greater incentive to invest in already existing machines to harvest their crops. This sort of capital investment in mechanized harvesting occurred long ago for cotton and grains and more recently for tomatoes, and is increasingly the case for grapes.

Finally, the report ignores that the S.744 amnesty will not legalize all illegal aliens because those who came recently are not included – although that will depend on whether fraudulent applications are ignored. Many of them will still be working in agriculture as will many of the continuing flow of illegal aliens that the Congressional Budget Office estimates will continue to come under the provisions of S.744. This means that the S.744 concept to amnesty for illegal aliens will offer little benefit to those working in agriculture, because employers will continue to have a supply of illegal workers to exploit even if many of those who receive provisional legal status leave after five more years in the fields.

When the White House issues a report on an important national issue, shouldn’t we be able to expect it to be an objective assessment of the policy issue rather than a slick one-sided argument designed to mislead the public?

Share.

About Author

avatar

Jack, who joined FAIR’s National Board of Advisors in 2017, is a retired U.S. diplomat with consular experience. He has testified before the U.S. Congress, U.S. Civil Rights Commission, and U.S. Commission on Immigration Reform and has authored studies of immigration issues. His national and international print, TV, and talk radio experience is extensive (including in Spanish).

8 Comments

  1. avatar

    The American Farms are Being Gobbled Up By the Highest Foreign Bid(s)

    Then these foreign Overlords want taxpayer subsidized slave labor to boot….add in petitioning for more oil consumption to uselessly add more ethanol in our gas from corn….the foreign farmers are destroying our economy…ask McDonalds, they agree with me.

  2. avatar
    John Winthrop on

    It is completely TRUE……………..I watched the Congressional meetings and basically on the agriculture side 3/4 are illegal and 1/4 legal……………………….so it needs fixing……anybody that thinks the opposite is out of touch w/REALITY

  3. avatar

    You stated that, if workers were no so available so cheaply, agriculture would have an incentive to invest in mechanization. It’s not the first time. In the 1800’s, with trains, coupling and uncoupling cars was extremely hazardous. People lost fingers, hands, even their lives. Even after mechanization was available, railroad owners used humans for a while as their labor was cheaper than the process of converting to mechanization.

  4. avatar
    cynthia curran on

    From what I’ve read, the amnesty bill requires that in order to get permanent status, the farm worker would have to be indentured to work in agriculture for several years. Now, if the industry was attractive to workers in terms of wages and working conditions, you wouldn’t have to indenture them to remain in it. The reality is, once they got their permanent status, they’d be on to another type of work and farmers would again be crying for more workers. As it is, some 7 million illegal aliens are working under stolen SS numbers in industries other than ag, and Dreamers sure as heck don’t plan to work in ag. Ag employs only 2 million or so workers in total, so how come they don’t have their pick of illegal aliens? Could it be that even illegal aliens don’t want to work in ag when they can get better jobs?
    This is true, many dreamers have finished high school compared to their parents.

  5. avatar

    The one big elephant in the room is that when they grant citizenship and/or legalization to those present farm workers here illegally, they WILL NOT STAY in those jobs. And those coming here as supposed “guest” agricultural workers will eventually be given legal residency, which means they leave those jobs. Which leaves more people competing for the jobs we don’t have now to begin with, and it means a never ending flow of more foreign agricultural workers.

    Like everything else in this bill, this breaks the “broken system” even further. The idea that this fixes anything is the same old lies and propaganda these people have been repeating for years. If you had a plumber come six times to fix the same broken faucet, would you trust him to work on it again? But we rehire the same hack politicians and expect they are going to produce a different result from their many previous failures to enforce the law.

  6. avatar

    From what I’ve read, the amnesty bill requires that in order to get permanent status, the farm worker would have to be indentured to work in agriculture for several years. Now, if the industry was attractive to workers in terms of wages and working conditions, you wouldn’t have to indenture them to remain in it. The reality is, once they got their permanent status, they’d be on to another type of work and farmers would again be crying for more workers. As it is, some 7 million illegal aliens are working under stolen SS numbers in industries other than ag, and Dreamers sure as heck don’t plan to work in ag. Ag employs only 2 million or so workers in total, so how come they don’t have their pick of illegal aliens? Could it be that even illegal aliens don’t want to work in ag when they can get better jobs?

  7. avatar
    cynthia curran on

    I remember some Democratic that supported Mondale who was opposed to a lot of guest worker programs. Obama is actually taking an approach that is more Republican until about 10 years ago which is to have high guest worker programs in agricultural and legalized Hispanics. Bush tried this several times and the general mood among rank and file Republicans moved the Republican Party a little away from this approach, it also as mention keeps wages lower which is also a view of Supply side economics among the late Jack Kemp that wages need to be kept low to keep prices down. Some Republicans still think this way for example preferring Walmart over Costco.

  8. avatar
    cynthia curran on

    Good point, I read that some farmers in Kevin McCarty’s Bakersfield actually get better wages than retail and restaurant jobs like 11 to 12 an hr instead of 8 to 10 per hr, yet both Obama and Kevin McCarthy are complaining that agricultural can’t get enough people.