By: Jim Williams
Interesting fact about who harvests the fruits and vegetables we buy at our local grocery stores. According to a University of Arkansas report published in April of this year 73% of the crop farm worker population in the United States are immigrant workers and around 48% of hired crop farmworkers have no work authorization.
The University of Arkansas report is only one of at least five major studies done including one from the U.S, Department of Agriculture that supports the facts that nearly three quarters of our crops in this country are harvested by illegal immigrants. This information is key as we head into the 2024 election season.
There can be no doubt that one of the most controversial and hot button issues that will be debated in the 2024 election season is how the U.S. handles illegal immigration. Some hard liners on the far right want to go as far either taking them from their homes and either deporting them or to set up camps to hold those who are working in this country without filing the proper paperwork with the U.S. government until they get that paperwork.
There are H2 visa’s which allows for people from other countries to work for six months in the U.S. but they are in danger of being revoked. Consumers are looking at a big time sticker shock if law makers can’t resolve the work visa issue soon. For farmers nationwide these workers are essential to their staying in business and making a profit.
This becomes a major problem for famers and ranchers who count on those workers from Mexico, Central and South America to harvest their crops. A crackdown on those farm workers could have a devastating effect on the price we pay for fruits and vegetables at our local grocery stores.
The late standup comedian Ralphie May did a bit called the $97 Salad. May in a very simple way explained why if there is no real option to replace the illegal workers. He also drives home the point in a funny but true way that without migrant farm workers the prices for fruits and vegetables become far more expensive.
A Los Angeles Times report revealed that less than three percent of those applying for a spot to harvest crops in California are white. This despite wages for farm workers in the state being raised to around $15 dollars an hour.
This is a direct contradiction that Mexicans and other South and Central American’s are stealing jobs that the U.S. workforce would fill. By the way that does not even begin address the almost 70 percent of illegals who keep the hospitality industry alive.
There has been fear in the Mexican community that their jobs might go away at any moment. This began back in 2014 when the flow of labor began drying up when President Obama tightened the border and then came President Trump who tightened crossing at the southern border almost impossible.
Now heading into the 2024 election candidate Trump is promising to deport more people, raid more companies and other Republican lawmakers support these draconian measures.
There needs to be a comprehensive immigration legislation in the U.S. that for allows for a clear path to citizenship while at the same time keeping our boarders safe from drug smuggling and human trafficking. At the same time there must be a way that allows for laws crafted to give farm workers a way to live in the country and harvest the crops that includes better working conditions.
If we can’t find a way to make that happen, then Ralphie May’s $97 salad may not be a joke.