Until my mid-teens, I thought “farmer” and “farm worker” were one and the same: I believed these two parties represented the same interests. Then, one year, when my hometown grew brown with drought, I started hearing rumblings in the community about farmers and fish. Sifting through the adult conversations around our local café I learned that the farms north of us, near Tule Lake and Yreka, and south of us in the Central Valley, called for more water from the dams, creeks, and rivers. On the other side of the equation; my home town called for preservation of the streams that kept tourists and fishermen coming back year after year.
Utah’s Republican legislators have bucked the national trend of states passing punitive legislation aimed at driving undocumented immigrants out of their communities.
Utah legislators understand the value of immigrant labor and have a realistic assessment of how much work immigrants do in their state. It may have been a factor in passing legislation that gives undocumented immigrants a permit to work and live in the state without the fear of being detained and deported.
“The CIW [Coalition of Immokalee Workers] is not yet calling for a boycott of these supermarkets, but rather that consumers lift up their voices to demand more humane labor standards of these grocer’s tomato suppliers. Accordingly, we asked their blessing for our Lenten fast for justice, which they granted.”
- Immigration enforcement plan Secure Communities should be shelved or retooled — Los Angeles Times editorial
- Obama should consider Utah’s common-sense, market-based answer to the immigration question — Alfonso Aguilar, Politico
An economy with more people does not mean lower wages and higher unemployment — it’s simply a bigger economy. New workers actually create more jobs.
Today’s House Subcommittee hearing on Immigration Policy and Enforcement, clumsily entitled “New Jobs in Recession and Recovery: Who Are Getting Them and Who Are Not,” was clearly intended to sow fear. In his opening statement, Subcommittee Chairman Elton Gallegly (R-24th/CA) wasted no time in sounding the alarm that unemployed native-born workers are being left to twist in the wind as immigrants gobble up the few new jobs which have become available since the end of the Great Recession. Yet the preponderance of the evidence presented during the hearing failed to support that conclusion.
Republicans around the country are rushing to adopt Arizona-style anti-immigration laws, designed to criminalize undocumented immigrants and hassle them into oblivion.
Problem is, Americans are addicted to cheap immigrant labor — from domestic help to farm labor — leading to schizophrenic hilarity like this, from a couple of weeks ago:
The [Texas House] bill would make hiring an “unauthorized alien” a crime punishable by up to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine, unless that is, they are hired to do household chores.
Yes, under the House Bill 2012 introduced by a tea party favorite state Rep. Debbie Riddle — who’s been saying for some time that she’d like to see Texas institute an Arizona-style immigration law — hiring an undocumented maid, caretaker, lawnworker or any type of houseworker would be allowed. Why? As Texas state Rep. Aaron Pena, also a Republican, told CNN, without the exemption, “a large segment of the Texas population” would wind up in prison if the bill became law.
Yet Utah, locked in a battle with Oklahoma to claim the status of “most Republican state in the union”, has decided a different approach:
To the Editor:
Re “Itinerant Life Weighs on Farmworkers’ Children” (news article, March 13):
Corporate agriculture has never believed that it was responsible for the welfare of farmworker families, forcing the extra services needed by migrants on local communities and federal and state governments.
In the 1960s and ’70s, César Chávez came close to achieving real improvements in farmworkers’ lives by organizing them. The costs of better wages and health plans were passed on to consumers as a very modest increases in prices.
The improvements in living standards that Mr. Chávez won for his members proved short-lived. The United States failed to protect farmworkers from ruinous competition from the flow of ever-more desperate workers from outside its borders.
The recent trend of allowing corporations to bring in seasonal workers is in effect a repeat of the Bracero Program, which was abolished in 1964. It is adding to the plight of families already here and trying to establish a life in America.
Michael G. Harpold
Ketchikan, Alaska, March 13, 2011
The writer was a Border Patrol officer and worked for the Immigration and Naturalization Service.