April 13, 2017
Immigrant hands feed America, and that's exactly why farmers also fear Trump's deportation force
By Gabriel Ortiz
The simple fact is that without immigrant labor, America’s farms will slam to a stop. According to 2009 data from the U.S. Department of Labor, “71 percent of all farm workers in the country are foreign-born, and 48 percent are undocumented,” with others putting that latter number even higher. Immigrant hands feed America. But Donald Trump’s national mass deportation dragnet has left them terrified and many in hiding, with farmers who have long benefitted from their labor, like Wally Czjkowski, feeling their pain.
Czajkowski, like other farmers, are worried they won't have enough employees to do all the work for the upcoming season. Having immigrant laborers is "absolutely crucial," he has said, adding he couldn't possibly hire enough workers to replace them.
Trump's immigration talk and recent U.S. Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids are scaring people, even those with papers, he said.
In fact, while 75 to 100 turned out to his Plainville Farm for a meeting, others were afraid to come, he said.
"They were afraid of being targeted. I think it's thinks terrible when you're afraid to speak your mind. They didn't want to draw attention to themselves, they're so afraid Immigration and Customs Enforcement could target them even though they have only documented workers," he said of other farms in the area.
"There's a real labor shortage," he said. Unemployment in Massachusetts has dipped and he said many restaurants and businesses are also hiring.
He said if ICE doesn't raid area farms, "that will be a huge help."
One study estimated that if immigrant labor were completely cut from the dairy industry, “it could cut U.S. economic output by $32 billion.” In California “the USDA estimates losses as a result of a farm worker shortage has cost farmers millions of dollars per year as fruit and other crops are left to rot in the field.” Trump knows how much American businesses rely on immigrant workers—who else does he think keeps his empire running?
Alleged perjurer and Attorney General Jeff Sessions should know this all too well. In 2011, his agriculture-rich home state of Alabama passed HB 56, then considered to be the harshest anti-immigrant law in the nation. Guess what happened next?
Scores of the state’s 120,000 undocumented immigrant families, fearing crackdowns and separation, fled the state in droves as the state’s crops rotted in the fields.
The US-born workers that lawmakers claimed would show up to replace undocumented immigrants were no shows and the ones who did make it to a field for work were ready to call it quits on the first day. They couldn’t do the work that undocumented immigrants — demonized by legislators — could do. Plain and simple.
As for the immigrants who did stay, life became a matter of hiding just to survive and stay safely together.
“Today there is no-one left,” described the Guardian. “The fields around [an Alabama farmer’s] colonial-style farmhouse on top of a mountain are empty of pickers and the tomato plants are withering on the vine as far as the eye can see. The sweet, slightly acrid smell of rotting tomato flesh hangs in the air.”
The law died a quick death soon after, but clearly Republicans haven’t learned any lessons. The Trump regime is now intent on causing this on a national scale, with farmers, their industry, and the rest of us paying the price—and broken immigrant families paying the ultimate price.
If you think immigration has nothing to do with you, think again.