Senator John Thune comes to Groton, and we get more pro-CAFO propaganda for loosening immigration rules to provide South Dakota dairies with more easy-to-exploit foreign labor:
“You talk about the labor situation in Aberdeen right now — you can’t find anybody,” said Randy Schuring of Andover, who also serves as vice president for South Dakota Dairy Producers. “We milk 1,200 cows 24 hours per day and the better half of our workforce is Hispanic. If it wasn’t for them, we’d be shut down. When we built our facility, the state said ‘there will be people looking for work.’ When are we going to tackle immigration, which is an issue that needs to be addressed?” [Bryan Horwath, “Thune Stop Prompts Immigration, Vets Talk,” Aberdeen American News, 2015.04.18]
Side note: once again, the state leaps before it looks, promoting a dairy industry which South Dakota’s underpaid workforce can’t support.
Senator Thune has no specific plan for helping our CAFOs get immigrant workers more easily. He only knows we don’t dare give let those hard workers from Mexico, Guatemala, and other points south become citizens:
Thune said he didn’t have an all-encompassing solution for the issues surrounding America’s complex immigration quagmire.“I’ve always felt like just because you can’t do everything doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do something,” Thune answered. “There a lot of parts of the immigration issue that 60-70 percent of the American people are for. The issue of citizenship is very divisive. There is a way to allow people to still be here with guest worker permits or something like that, which allows people to contribute and participate” [Horwath, 2015.04.18].
Contribute, participate, but not vote, not shape the laws under which they labor as hard as anyone else in our great and welcoming country. Schuring told Thune at yesterday’s Groton meeting that Republicans should stop using citizenship as an excuse not to act on immigration reform and that his workers don’t want citizenship. I’d prefer to hear that straight from the workers’ mouths rather than their bosses (since when do we trust management to speak for labor?). However, national statistics indicate Schuring’s claim may be mostly true: out of 8.8 million green card holders in the U.S. eligible to pursue citizenship, 780,000—less than 9%—naturalized in 2012. If those national statistics hold for Schuring’s more-than-half Hispanic dairy force, if 9 out of 10 of those milkers and swampers aren’t interested in obtaining U.S. citizenship, what’s the harm in offering it to that last tenth? To speak in pure political terms, Schuring is saying a path to citizenship would not swell the voting rolls with immigrants who would vote Democrat. By this logic, the slim-at-best increase in Dem-leaning voters should be a minor cost for the GOP to pay in exchange for the guest worker program and other reforms that would keep big dairies and other CAFOs afloat with cheap immigrant labor.
As we discussed Monday, South Dakota’s big dairies and our Congressional delegation want easier access to a workforce with fewer rights. But offering workers what they deserve is the price of doing business. Whether 10%, 50%, or 90% of those dairy workers want citizenship, we should offer those hard workers a path to fully participate (i.e., vote) in the society they support with their labor.
Related: The Migration Policy Institute estimates that South Dakota has 4,000 unauthorized immigrants. Only Montana, North Dakota, and Vermont appear to have fewer. Wyoming has 5,000. Nebraska and Iowa each have 37,000. Minnesota is the regional leader with 81,000.
Looking at Census data, the Migration Policy Institute finds that in 2013, 2.9% of South Dakota’s population was foreign-born. About a third have become U.S. citizens. 7.4% of Minnesota’s residents were born in other countries, and over half have become citizens.