Reality squashes farmer’s plan to hire local labor


With unemployment hovering around 9 percent, some have argued that if we could just “deal with” (read: “round up and ship out” or “starve out”) undocumented immigrants, there would be enough jobs to go around. After all, they’re taking up jobs that citizens would be happy to do, right? Well, not exactly.

The rub is that enforcement-only immigration policies do not solve real problems, even if such policies make the hard-liners feel better about life. Too often, enforcement-only policies just make matters worse.

[pullquote]The reality is that there are jobs out there that most Americans simply will not do[/pullquote]We have seen what happens when states like Georgia and Alabama adopt such laws. While these measures are often touted as job-creating legislation, the reality is that there are jobs out there that most Americans simply will not do.

John Harold, a Colorado farmer, found this out the hard way. Because of a shortage of H-2A visas (allowing seasonal foreign workers into the country), he decided to hire local workers to fill in the gaps. The New York Times reported what he found:

“It didn’t take me six hours to realize I’d made a heck of a mistake,” Mr. Harold said, standing in his onion field on a recent afternoon as a crew of workers from Mexico cut the tops off yellow onions and bagged them.

Six hours was enough, between the 6 a.m. start time and noon lunch break, for the first wave of local workers to quit. Some simply never came back and gave no reason. Twenty-five of them said specifically, according to farm records, that the work was too hard. On the Harold farm, pickers walk the rows alongside a huge harvest vehicle called a mule train, plucking ears of corn and handing them up to workers on the mule who box them and lift the crates, each weighing 45 to 50 pounds.

Even though nearly one of every 12 people in Colorado is unemployed, it still only took six hours for the locals to quit.

To be sure, immigration is a complex issue, one that the federal government has failed to address. However, one of the realities that enforcement-only immigration policy does not take into account is that by refusing to take certain jobs that are a crucial part of our free-market economy, American citizens have created, and will continue to create, the economic niche that undocumented immigrants have filled.

As we move forward, authentic conservatives will do well to remember that reality, not ideology, is what makes the issue of illegal immigration such an ideal opportunity for us to make a constructive difference.