With harvest time approaching, US Farmers must depend on undocumented immigrants to bring in the crops. Farm workers have a very long day, beginning at dawn and working all day in the hot sun. Of the estimated one million farm workers nationwide, the majority are immigrants with up to half of them being illegal.
With US unemployment near 10%, many argue that illegal immigrants are taking jobs from Americans. The Farm Workers Union recently launched a campaign to fill farm jobs with the unemployed, three people accepted out of thousands of inquiries.
Union president Arturo Rodriguez says most were not interested due to the difficult working conditions.
“They really don’t have any idea what it is to work in agriculture today,” he says. “We’ve just gotten so far away from that type of society that people have forgotten.”
One Farmer, who asked to remain anonymous, describes the guest worker program as a bureaucratic nightmare.
“Every farmer I know would gladly use the program and be legal,” he says. “Every Hispanic would love to be legal. But the program is so onerous, it’s so hard to use, and so expensive…. And you don’t necessarily get your people. [If] the crop is ready, [and] the people are not here, boom, it’s a loss. Most growers will not take that chance.”
He says he’s tried to hire Americans, but he simply can’t find enough able and willing do the work.
“The truth is, nobody is raising their kids to be farm workers,” he says.
While legislation to reform the immigration system stalls in Congress, Farmers grow increasingly concerned about their crops. Simply put, without a workforce to bring in the fruits and vegetables, both the fruit and the farms will wither away.