Big Ag Wants Illegal Immigrants; Trump Won’t Cure Root Causes

Donald Trump supposedly won the Presidency on the strength of his appeal to rural America. But as we have often noted on this blog, rural America depends on the immigrant labor force that Trump wants to deport.

KELO Radio brings us the latest reminder of Big Ag’s desire to keep illegal immigrants on the job at our farms and feedlots:

The American Farm Bureau says close to half of all farm workers in the United States are undocumented and the agency endorses a plan to give people residency but not citizenship.

Steve Suppan with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy says the Farm Bureau has to walk a fine line with its Republican constituents in not granting citizenship to undocumented farm workers [Jack Taylor, “Deportations Impact on Agriculture,” KELO Radio, 2016.12.20].

Dr. Suppan goes further in his original commentary, noting that NAFTA has driven many Mexican farm workers to immigrate illegally to the U.S.:

As IATP’s Karen Lehman testified to Congress in 1993, the terms of the NAFTA agriculture chapter would drive a very conservatively estimated 600,000 to 700,000 Mexican farmers (and their families) off their land to the United States to look for work. According to a Mexican legislator, as of January 2015, about 550,000 Mexican farmers a year migrate to the United States [Dr. Steve Suppan, “Undocumented Farmworkers and the U.S. Agribusiness Economic Model,” Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy, 2016.12.19].

Any Trumpian replacement of NAFTA is unlikely to fix that problem:

Stemming futures flows of Mexican farmers into the undocumented U.S. agricultural workforce will require renegotiating NAFTA to prevent agricultural export dumping, i.e. exporting at prices below the cost of production, with which the unsubsidized Mexican farmers cannot compete.

Measures to end dumping will not be popular with agribusiness donors to Congressional elections and so are unlikely to be included in a renegotiated NAFTA. The flow of undocumented labor into U.S. agribusiness very likely will keep coming, both from Mexico and via Mexico, from the Central American Free Trade Agreement countries [Suppan, 2016.12.19].

Another driver of immigration is another problem Trump is unlikely to do anything about—climate change!

One important emigration driver is climate change that is helping to degrade soil quality and fertility. Major investments to adapt to climate change by improving soil are absent and a recent report estimates that there will be about 50 million climate change refugees over the next decade.

President-elect Trump told The New York Times  that he is “keeping an open mind” about climate change but he nominated a climate change denier to be in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency. If the Trump administration climate policy does not come with U.S. funding for farmers in developing countries to adapt to climate change, the Farm Bureau advocated pool of permanent temporary migrant farmworkers could become much larger much faster [Suppan, 2016.12.19].

Trump voters think they are getting a President who will be tough on illegal immigration, but they have chosen a President and a party whose beholdenness to big business and bad science mean Trump won’t be able to tackle two root causes of illegal immigration.

39 Responses to Big Ag Wants Illegal Immigrants; Trump Won’t Cure Root Causes

  1. Darin Larson

    Cory, Big Ag doesn’t want illegal immigrants. They want a better work visa program.

  2. Why does The American Farm Bureau advocate for residency and not citizenship for these workers? Why stop short of citizenship?

  3. Roger Elgersma

    So NAFTA cuts Mexican jobs. Quite the opposite of how it was presented. We like to sell grain but at the expense of they losing their farmers is quite wrong policy. In the end we will starve the world rather than feed it. If their grain prices go down so will ours, then our farmers will turn corn into pasture and we will all be worse off.

  4. mike from iowa

    Steve Suppan with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy says the Farm Bureau has to walk a fine line with its Republican constituents in not granting citizenship to undocumented farm workers

    Why? Is Farm Burro working for ag interests or the RAC-wingnut party. Where does their loyalties lie?

  5. Have slick Mike the mayor figure it out.He should go around town and see what kind of places these people are living in.Slum lords.

  6. Porter Lansing

    Mexico is not losing farmers. Mexico is losing farmer’s sons and daughters. Every “new American” that worked for me came from a farm and the farm was still there, operated by their parents and a couple kids the parents chose to stay home and help with chores.
    Illegal immigration is solidly in the lap of the Republican Party. Always has been. It’s one of the big ways big business broke up the unions. It’s one of the big ways big business keeps wages and benefits below standard. Illegal immigration is not going anywhere because Trump intends to “run government like a business.”

  7. What is the root cause and what do we do to solve it?

  8. bearcreekbat

    “What is the root cause and what do we do to solve it?”

    Root cause – nationalism and xenophobia resulting in unsound and barely workable immigration laws.

    Solution – work with our young people to develop a sense of community regardless of someone’s national origin, and revise our immigration laws and open our northern and southern borders.

  9. Illegal immigration has always had the full support of the John Birch Society through Milton Friedman’s Chicago School of Economics. Right wing politics have always known that by hiring illegal immigrants for work in the United States, you get willing hands that will not get uppity on the boss and not claim Social Security or any other benefits that legal immigrants receive. They have always called it a win win.

    Fact is, no one wants these low paying crappy (literally) jobs. Only entry level illegals will take them while suffering the abuse in the workplace and knowing that if they get sick or hurt, it is tough luck for them.

  10. I am clueless on the differences in benefits for residents/legal immigrants and citizens. Jerry, do only citizens get Social Security? Do only citizens pay the SS tax? What other differentiations are there?

  11. mike from iowa

    Immigrants pay SS taxes but cannot claim benefits. BTW they pay billions in each year.

  12. o, mfi link really says it all. Yes, illegal immigrants are the best thing we have ever had to advance an economy with little to no investment. We collect from them for a pie in the sky so they can work to send money home to their families.

    When you come here and get a green card, you also start the process for naturalization. You are given a legitimate social security number and expected to go to work to satisfy your 40 quarters for qualifications. It will take some years for you to qualify to even apply for citizenship, some wait for years to do so while still paying social security tax, and medicare tax. You do qualify to purchase health insurance with your social security number, so ya got that going for ya.

    When you come here illegally, you can get a made up social security that protects your corrupt boss from saying he knew you were who you are not. He collects the social security, medicare tax and then submits it to the IRS. They collect it as mfi notes, and there ya go.

  13. Trump won’t solve the “problem” because he and the republicants identified a solution in search of a problem. Immigration isn’t the problem. China’s manufacturing and exports are not the problem. The problem is automation.

    Paraphrasing Milton Friedman – if it’s jobs you want then give the workers spoons instead of shovels.

    The “rural” problem is folks refuse to move where the jobs are; refuse to timely improve their skills; and generally refuse that STEM education thing. No amount of Trump bombast will change that. No amount of Trump/Pence bribery of Carrier-like companies will change that. No amount of xenophobia or nationalism will change that. Companies will innovate, automate, or die.

    What will happen with reducing immigration is that agriculture and tourism (especially in SD) will wither.

  14. No one wants to works these ag jobs
    Our area people pay up to $22 an hour for good help plus living arrangements
    The hours are long and you don’t have weekends off
    The H2 visa program is a joke if the paperwork doesn’t drive you crazy, you get SA help that doesn’t know squat and are lazier than our today’s teenager if you can believe that, they are only here for exchange rate
    the only good help comes out of Mexico, where they want to work and work hard they do. They pay SS but cannot collect,
    We hire local first and got lucky this year, but I know for sure
    If it wasn’t for foreign help and the H2 visa, crops from Texas to ND wouldn’t get harvested
    Fruits and veggies in Arizona wouldn’t get picked because it’s back breaking work, that no one wants to do….

  15. mike from iowa

    T- Wisconsin RAC-wingnuts removed worker’s protection of at least one day a week off. Theoretically they could be forced to work every day of the year.

    I can understand working 7 days a week to harvest perishable crops.

  16. Mike from Iowa
    Yes I know and believe me there are dairy farms and our ag industry that take full advantage of the 7 days a year and power position to force this labor group to work and they are idiots. You get more production treating people like people and giving them time off. Hell you want horror stories google Dairy farms where forced labor is traumatic
    Not saying these folks don’t need rights because they do, don’t expect them to get them anytime soon. And the women? I can’t even go there, forced to do tasks not even on job description look at the place, think it was winner SD a few years back. We need the work force but it is so mismanaged and I doubt it can be fixed under our administration .
    Right on of course we don’t want illegals and yes we want a better H2 program.

  17. Darin, Big Ag uses illegal immigrants right now. If they didn’t want them, they wouldn’t use them, right? Would not their preferred situation be the situation where they can get the cheapest labor, which is illegal labor that can’t organize, lobby, or vote for better working conditions?

  18. In Jerry’s apt explanation of the power dynamic, we get the answer to O’s question. I contend capital prefers the cheapest, most exploitable, least politically powerful labor. Illegal immigrants are cheapest. As T notes, they are cheaper than legal immigrants, who require all sorts of maddening paperwork.

    Immigrants granted the privilege of residency but not the rights of citizenship are next-best. Going for citizenship endangers not only capital’s power but the reform legislation itself: Republicans are far less likely to vote to give more Mexican immigrants voting power, since Hispanic immigrants are more likely to vote for Democrats. (See also anti-immigration CIS on impact of immigration on Republican prospects from 1980 to 2012.)

  19. One of the things that has always interested me is the lack of information South Dakotan’s have for illegal immigration topics. We tend to listen to gossip about cantaloupe sized calves carrying loads of drugs across the border and all of that jive, but nothing about those illegal immigrants that go to Troy’s church or to Mr. o’s market or to many of our other retail outlets. Why is that jerry asks himself? Well I will tell you. It is inconvenient to hear about such things here. To hear about that in a sparsely populated state under the direction of some of the most corrupted officials since the James Gang rode through Sioux Falls, is just too much. We are for law and order, right? Nonsense, we are for bullying while deliberately stealing from the future of the illegals that work under their supervision. South Dakotan’s should be made aware of this and also made aware of who is doing the exploration. Every time you hear of the great ideas of CAFO’s, there should be a full disclosure weekly on who is working there and that their paperwork is in order with a working Social Security number that is for whom it was applied. Not only for these kinds of business, but for all that utilize basic unskilled labor. Federal immigration people should be checking on this like they do in Colorado, Texas and any other state that hires immigrants to make sure that those hired are legal. If they are not practicing legal means, shut them down.

    For the American Farm Bureau to more or less, embrace illegal immigrants really says it all. It is a fact that the programs that Daugaard and company have set up regarding CAFO’s and whatever other loads of corporate thievery are on the books, is geared for the exploitation of illegal immigrants. Big Agriculture simply cannot work and provide without under the table workers, the margin’s are just not there for it to work, unless it would be state run. So what is gonna happen if Trump sends those folks back home? Nothing, you simply will see that there will soon be either a demand for well paid workers with normal work hours and benefits or a lot of tumbleweeds blowing across boarded up confinement areas.

  20. Darin Larson

    No, Cory. Reputable ag groups and people that I know don’t want to exploit workers by using illegal immigrants. They want timely and efficient access to immigrant labor to fill in the gaps in labor that domestic workers will not fulfill.

    You say “Big Ag uses illegal immigrants right now. If they didn’t want them, they wouldn’t use them, right?” That’s like me saying you support fracking and oil pipelines and destroying the earth to dig up oil sands because you use gasoline. And further if you didn’t support these things, you wouldn’t use gasoline that was produced using these methods.

    But in reality, you use gasoline because you have no reasonable choice not to do so. Likewise with many agricultural producers. There is no reasonable choice other than immigrant labor if we are going to have domestic production of many agricultural products at a reasonable price for consumers.

  21. Jerry is correct if they are using illegals shut them down but here is the catch when anyone comes to work anyone has to check valid forms of citizenship, here lies the problem usually what the worker shows looks and appears valid but sometimes it isn’t. There should be viable solution and that would possibly be some type of citizenship apprenticeship, possibly then things would be monitored and endangerments and right infringements would not run so rampid within the industry,. However, there is big money involved and last time I checked our state isn’t too interested in rights and liberties of ethnicity or other ways of life that differ from 200 years ago ..

  22. Darin Larson

    Continuing what T said, some people are using illegal immigrants without any reasonable idea that they are illegal. Some people are using illegal immigrants that are turning a blind eye to the situation. Some are employing illegal immigrants intentionally. The vast majority of ag producers are in the first two categories.

  23. mike from iowa

    Drumpf winery is petitioning the Fed again to allow foreign workers into the country. The seems to be plenty of Americans applying for the jobs, but Drumpf wants foreigners. Same at Mar a Lago in Florida.

    So much for bringing jobs back for Americans.

  24. If the United States were serious about workplace placement of workers it should look within its borders. Look to Puerto Rico as a great source for American workers that are actual citizens. Whoa, what?! The problem with those workers is that they might want to be paid for the jobs they do at a living working wage. They would not have to show a green card either. By the way, does American agriculture know that just because you can show a number does not prove identification. If you are here legally, you will have a green card. There really should be no reason for not being able to make sure the worker is here legally under a work permit if you are really interested in knowing.

  25. The other interesting thing is that Big Ag, who I don’t think is a single person but some sort of conglomerate run by a shadow organization, is not letting the unions take over. That just shows you that unions are so dead already.

  26. JErry @20:23

    There are green cards, H2 visas and I-9 forms for employment verification so if one is provided, why would an employer think differently
    H2 visas are normally obtained thru employment houses who have the business placing foreigners and the employers hold the visas on the employees so they would definitely know if someone is eligible… if they don’t “hold” the visa then a foreigner cannot legally work for them.

  27. Yes T, my point is that if the employer really wanted to know up to date status, they could find out. They simply do not want to know and by not thinking differently, they get the job done for themselves. Look, I have no problem with illegal immigrants doing the work they do. My problem is the that this is made into the huge lie it has become. We all know the truth, but we do not want to know the truth. To fully understand the truth, you have to find yourself respecting these honest workers who are only trying to work to better their family lives at home. What could be more honest? It is time to start to call out the lying liars that have been getting away with the lies for far to long. These folks are the real backbone of American agriculture, without them, we would be damn hungry and poorer at the cash register for the goods they help to put on our tables. The idea that they could even think of being involved with voter fraud or any other kind of fraud that may make their lives more noticeable to authorities is just stupid. They make these good folks into something inhuman and somehow lesser human beings, that is dangerous.

  28. Mr. Wayman is being released from prison, and he is from a place where they abused welfare food and had too few young men for so many young women. This is a place where some immigration would be good to add to the mix, this place Mr. Wayman is from.

  29. T, the federal law calls out that you must verify as an employer, if you have made an offer for employment.

  30. You can go online to have this done in minutes. No, it is clear that the only way illegal immigration works is because we want illegal immigration. As long as we are all on the same page, let’s act like it. We know there is no Santa, and we are comfortable with that knowledge. Illegal immigration should be viewed the same way as it is in much bigger circles than what we know. Should we demand the powers in those bigger circles fix it, we have. Do they listen? No, they just keep lying about it. Ask old Steve King from Iowa. His district does not have one illegal immigrant, not one. He will tell you that. He is only talking about other districts, not his own. So why do we talk of a wall? Because of all the money involved. There are cities that are safe zones for illegal immigrants in this country, agricultural states should declare themselves safe states and enjoy the fruits of the laborers picking the fruits.

  31. Darin, you make a good comparison to fracking and fossil fuels. The Standing Rock protestors almost all used internal combustion engines to get to Cannonball. They don’t want pipelines endangering our water, but they all use fuel shipped in pipelines and by rail that endangers our water. They don’t refrain from using the fruits of the system that they oppose.

    As Jerry says, illegal immigrants are the backbone of American agriculture. None of us want illegal activity, but we all eat the literal fruits of that illegal activity. Pragmatists all, we all daily accept the system that we say ultimately we want to overturn.

    But who has the power here? If industry really wants to rid itself of illegal immigrants, why hasn’t it applied its lobbying power and campaign finance power to get the immigration reforms it proposes year after year? Why do the powers that be keep settling for the status quo that no one supposedly wants?

    Employers and consumers say they have no other reasonable choice. Yet we fail to enact reasonable reform. And we have just failed to elect a President who will move us any closer to reasonable reform.

  32. Look at the ‘Elf Index’, er, the North Pole Manufacturing Index – to see just how automation dominates the root causes. The lead:

    “My daughter had been hounding me for days to mail Santa Claus her Christmas list, but I kept putting it off. Then this week, she had a change of heart and told me it’s OK if we wait until the last minute, because “most of the toys are made by machines, and the elves just have to turn them on.””

  33. Darin Larson

    Cory asks “If industry really wants to rid itself of illegal immigrants, why hasn’t it applied its lobbying power and campaign finance power to get the immigration reforms it proposes year after year?”

    Cory, I know for a fact that “industry” has lobbied to get immigration reform. I know they met with Speaker Boehner and had discussions about how to move immigration reform forward. The Tea Party killed it. Boehner is gone and now you have Trump. Good luck with that.

  34. bearcreekbat

    Did you ever wonder how to marginalize another human being? One way is to choose a dehumanizing name to call that person. If we call a person an “illegal” that should do the trick (even though there is no such thing as an “illegal” human being). Add “illegal” to the other useful dehumanizing names such as spic, wetback, beaner, border nigger, etc, and it really becomes much easier to see some people as less than human.

  35. Douglas Wiken

    The root cause is Mexico. And if we continue to allow illegal aliens from Mexico into the US, they will turn the US into a huge slum like Mexico.

    An expression is (can’t remember the satirists name right now) , “Chinese cheap labor is not inexpensive.” Cheap labor has prevented mechanization and other methods to make big ag use of illegal aliens irrelevant.

  36. LOL
    Mexico maybe a part of illegal immigration, but you’ve got the wrong border and forgetting a whole entire “ethnic” group of people ….. visit the plants in Kansas then get back to us Douglas Wiken

  37. Doug, Mexico bears as much responsibility for illegal immigration as it does for illegal drugs. Is the root cause supply, or is it demand?

  38. Porter Lansing

    Without demand, supply is without value and soon ceases to exist.

  39. Here is the guy mfi mentions that could do a lot to solve the issue for everyone including himself. Here is his petition There are so many billions to be made off the backs of illegal labor. So much so that the slavers cannot turn their backs on it. The lying liars will continue the drumbeat against the immigrants while they line their pockets from those who want to keep the status quo, all while these crooks and liars will receive the multi-million dollar war chests to ward off any kind of political challenger. The border militia’s get to play dress up to terrorize these illegal workers whose labors actually feed them in this upside down world. The immigrants are blamed for everything and praised for nothing as a sort of blasphemy to the human spirit. NOem calls them a threat. A threat to what? Dare we say this is Christmas.