Thursday, September 28, 2006

More immigration detention beds, for whom?

Here's the immigration conundrum in a nutshell:

The Department of Homeland Security estimates it will soon need to rent 28,000 new jail beds to house undocumented immigrants, if Congress will give up the money. Big bucks, the taxpayers are spending - we're talking hundreds of millions of dollars.

Simultaneously, South Texas farmers are losing money hand over fist, reports KRIS-TV in Corpus Christi, because there aren't enough immigrant pickers to harvest their crops. An onion grower quoted could only hire half his usual labor force, and so suffered signficant financial loss from leaving crops rotting in the fields.

What's wrong with this picture? DHS wants to rent 28,000 new jail beds for whom? These farmers' prospective employees. Reports KRIS-TV in Corpus Christi:
According to the Department of Labor's National Agricultural Workers Survey, 53 percent of the hired crop labor force lacked authorization to work in the U.S. in 2001-02. Worker advocates and grower associations agree the actual figure is probably closer to 80 percent.

Three-quarters of the hired farm work force in the U.S. was born in Mexico. And more than 40 percent of crop workers were migrants, meaning they had traveled at least 75 miles in the previous year to get a farm job, the survey showed.
Without immigrant pickers, KRIS reports, growers say many US farms may close up shop and re-open in Mexico where they can get enough labor to harvest their crops. "A Mexican worker is going to pick these crops one way or the other, and the only question is whether they pick them here or across the border in Mexico," said a senior fellow from the conservative Manhattan Institute.

That is the logical outcome of increased enforcement, if it works. But it's too bad. And unnecessary. Demographics already had it in for American farming, as urbanization, globalization and technological advance combined to destroy probably most family farms in the last decades. But what grave harm justifies immigration policies that seem almost designed to kill off the industry entirely?

MORE on the subject from Open Veins.

11 comments:

800 pound gorilla said...

They could pay higher wages. Yeah, I know: it would result in lower profit margins and higher food prices. It would also likely give more discretionary income for workers to spend here. As long as there are free markets for wages and government control to protect profit margins for our capitalists, we will see an "immigration problem". The choice given in this article revolves around preserving high profits and cheap food.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

@800: How much are you willing to pay for onions?

Anonymous said...

Or, the farmers could pay $20+ per hr. and then you could pull your kids from the university so they can harvest the land.

Let's be honest, no one wants their kids working the farms.
This is very hard work, but that's ok as long as we don't personally know who's working the fields right?

Next time you enjoy that strawberry margarita, remember there's a 51% probability that an illegal alien picked the stawberry for you.

LonewackoDotCom said...

Labor costs are a very small part of the cost of veggies:

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2003265139_imprices19.html

It used to be that "liberals" would fight against corrupt, exploitative growers that spread propaganda designed to make them richer. Nowadays, many of them sound like cheap labor pimps. Unless...

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Unless what?

Labor COSTS may be a small portion of vegetable costs, but labor AVAILABILITY is still a key factor. The onion grower likely would have paid more to have the onions picked - there just weren't enough warm bodies to get the job done. Do you have evidence this grower is corrupt?

And btw, liberal is your label, Whacko, not mine. I'm for expanding free markets and long-term economic ties between the US and Mexico, both goods and labor, so we can manage the externalities instead of merely suffer from them. You tell me: Does that make me a liberal or a conservative? Best,

Anonymous said...

My newspaper reported that farmers in California were offering $150/day to pick crops, but guess what--nobody showed up to get these excellent wages. Apparently, offering high wages isn't enough to get Americans to do a dirty, exhausting job. The crops rotted for lack of workers.

LonewackoDotCom said...

I don't know about the grower(s) mentioned in the story since I didn't bother to read the story since I've seen so many of them and I even have a long series of them on my blog.

But, when someone knowingly hires illegal workers they are by definition corrupt. And, when they (or an industry) group donates to a politician who then enables more illegal immigration so those growers can hire workers, that politician is corrupt.

In any case, here's a fun thought experiment. How could we get the crops picked if there were no illegal aliens? Not having a local labor pool is really no excuse, just so long as we assume that the reason they hire illegal aliens isn't just because they're trying to reduce their labor costs as low as possible.

P.S. Don't buy grower propaganda. They've been singing this same song for decades, and before then it was those who employed child labor who carried the discordant tune. Before then it was another group.

Rusty said...

Am I the only one????

I have NO PROBLEM WITH """ LEGAL WORKERS """??? Some how this whole subject has lost sight of the REAL PROBLEM!!! That is the ILLEGAL WORKERS!

I grew up in Arizona, and actually chopped weeds in cotton fields as a kid, we got a nickel a row. The crews I worked on were mostly Indian, not Hispanic??? And the big growers who had miles of fruit trees lettuce had HUNDREDS of workers. The good ones would wait till after the harvest, and then call INS. They would come with their helicopters and buses, and the workers got a FREE RIDE HOME! The INS got free publicity as if THEY WERE DOING THEIR JOB!!! The bad growers would call the INS and use them as a way to avoid PAYING the workers! I can remember my father sponsoring a man named Cristino who brought his family to Arizona to work for my dad, AND HE DID IT LEGALLY!!! Why does this not happen any more???

The subject IS ABOUT LEGAL OR ILLEGAL!!! Don't lose sight of the real problem!!!!

Anonymous said...

Legal and illegal are semantics. "Illegal" workers today would have been "legal" 40 years ago, and for most of American history. You don't have to like it, but economics says they're coming no matter what laws are passed or fences are built - i.e., they're coming or else, as the article implies, US businesses are going to move there. Framing the question like Rusty and Celtic do means we'll probably continue to handle the subject poorly. We should be pursuing labor market efficiencies in immigration policies, not projecting false notions of right and wrong - nor their surrogates, 'legal' and 'illegal' - onto a system where the labels don't fit.

Rusty said...

anonymous,

"""" "Illegal" workers today would have been "legal" 40 years ago, and for most of American history."""

REALLY???? NOT! If that was true my dad would not have to sponsored a man 40 ago, would he???

Why do you have a problem with them following our laws??? Why not have them work under the same rules and taxes we do? Why do you support them being abused so others can increase their profits? Those that move their companies to avoid paying a living wage, SHOULD BE FORCED TO MOVE WITH THE COMPANY!

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Actually, Rusty, until 1965 there was no law numerically restricting immigration from Mexico. I don't know details about who your father was sponsoring, but it's certainly correct that until about 40 years ago, most Mexican immigrants who are "illegal" today could have entered legally.

For me, I don't have a problem with "them" following our laws. I have a problem with "us" creating laws that are irrational, expensive, and counterproductive. That's the debate here.