One of the unintended consequences of the recent push to detain and deport undocumented immigrants is the loss of America’s valuable agricultural labor force. In rural Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, the $580 million fruit industry has already lost many workers, putting their fall harvest in real jeopardy.
Many immigrant workers in Pennsylvania’s “fruit belt” have already been detained or are so concerned about deportation that they have stopped showing up to work. Without immigration policies that consider the plight of farm workers, the U.S. may soon feel the effects of reduced produce and dairy production.
Native-born Americans Less Likely to Work on Farms
Americans often assume there are plenty of native-born workers to fill the planting, picking, and processing jobs left behind by immigrants. The reality is native workers are rarely willing to take these jobs, though most pay well above minimum wage. According to the local Gettysburg employment office, even unemployed Americans in need of work are willing to pass up farm jobs.
Rural Americans Divided on Immigration Policies
Though many rural Pennsylvanians voted for the President, many of the residents there are divided about his immigration policies. Many see a problem with sweeping deportation efforts and want undocumented immigrants who have committed violent crimes to go, while allowing law-abiding immigrants stay.
One local Congressman has assured local farm owners that Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials do not intend to conduct random sweeps, but targeted enforcement instead. This contradicts ICE chief Tom Homan’s recent statement that no immigrants are protected from detainment, criminals or not.
Harvest Approaching Without Enough Labor
Growers and activists are compelled to lobby lawmakers to reconsider immigration measures that instill fear in the non-native population and cost local industry part of their workforce.
The only hope the fruit industry has to retain their labor force is the increase in visas issued for temporary farm workers. The U.S. Labor Department issued 20 percent more visas this year compared to last. However, to obtain visas, employers must prove that native-born workers are not willing to take the jobs they intend to give to immigrant workers. The visa process also takes time – one thing growers do not have.
Non-native workers are crucial to the American economy. Immigration reforms need to consider the value of immigrants and their contributions to the culture, diversity, and economy of the United States.
Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. Protect Immigrant Workers
Immigrants in the U.S. are facing a time of uncertainty. New immigration policies are daunting. The Philadelphia immigration lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. work to improve the plight of America’s immigrant workers and the business owners that employ them. If you are fighting deportation or have an employment visa concern, schedule a consultation with a Philadelphia immigration lawyer today by calling 215-925-4435 or contact us online.
Our office is located in Center City Philadelphia, where we proudly serve clients throughout Philadelphia County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, and the towns of Bala Cynwyd, Merion Station, Darby, Wynnewood, Sharon Hill, Upper Darby, Narberth, Folcroft, Cheltenham, Clifton Heights, Lansdowne, Glenolden, Drexel Hill, Elkins Park, Havertown, Norwood, Ardmore, Holmes, Essington, Wyncote, and Prospect Park.