The Obama administration has been extremely tough on rounding up illegal immigrants and deporting them. So tough that he’s deported more than any other administration in history. So what’s the problem you ask? Well, no one wants the jobs because they either don’t pay enough, are too hard, or both.
Although a tough new law was enacted in Alabama and has been challenged, it scared away most of the migrant workers, illegal and legal. Though farmers have tried to get Americans to fill the positions many quit after a short period of time because the work is too hard.
Potato farmer Keith Smith saw most of his immigrant workers leave after Alabama’s tough immigration law took effect, so he hired Americans. It hasn’t worked out: Most show up late, work slower than seasoned farm hands and are ready to call it a day after lunch or by midafternoon. Some quit after a single day.
“I’ve had people calling me wanting to work,” Smith said. “I haven’t turned any of them down, but they’re not any good. It’s hard work, they just don’t work like the Hispanics with experience.”
In south Georgia, Connie Horner has heard just about every reason unemployed Americans don’t want to work on her blueberry farm. It’s hot, the hours are long, the pay isn’t enough and it’s just plain hard.
The problem, it seems, isn’t the money. It’s the fact that Americans either can’t, or won’t do the back-breaking jobs and put in the effort to get the work done.
Tomato farmer Wayne Smith said he has never been able to keep a staff of American workers in his 25 years of farming.
“People in Alabama are not going to do this,” said Smith, who grows about 75 acres of tomatoes in the northeast part of the state. “They’d work one day and then just wouldn’t show up again.”
At his farm, field workers get $2 for every 25-pound box of tomatoes they fill. Skilled pickers can make anywhere from $200 to $300 a day, he said.
A crew of four Hispanics can earn about $150 each by picking 250-300 boxes of tomatoes in a day, said Jerry Spencer, of Grow Alabama, which purchases and sells locally owned produce. A crew of 25 Americans recently picked 200 boxes — giving them each $24 for the day.
That’s right. 4 Hispanics do the job of 25 Americans. Maybe, with time, these Americans would hone their skills and make more money, but none of them will stay long enough to learn their trade. If the Americans that are hired would stay for the season, they would be just as skilled as the Hispanics that they are replacing. The following season, more people would be hired and can learn from those who are experienced. You can’t train someone to be fast, it’s something you learn over time with experience on the job. The major problem isn’t the wages, it’s that you can’t even get an American to stay in these jobs for a week.
The problems are just as bad in other parts of the country. In Washington, the state can’t get anyone to come and pick their apples.
In the Wenatchee Valley, apple growers have posted help-wanted signs across the countryside. For the first time in years, growers have also launched a radio campaign, offering up to $150 dollars per day.
Gregoire criticized anti-illegal-immigration rhetoric prevalent in Washington, D.C., saying Congress should instead be focused on ways to get more foreign workers to help with harvesting .
In California, farmers have complained of too few workers to pick the avocados, and in Texas, growers have appealed with little luck for more help picking their organic crops and vegetables.
Though these jobs are seasonal and temporary, they often pay over $1000 a week. They are available now and farmers are desperate for people to fill the positions. Here, as in Alabama, the problem is that Americans don’t want the jobs because they are too difficult, the illegal immigrants have left, and there is no good government program that allows for the movement of legal migrant workers.
The end result is that many of these jobs will go away permanently. A lot of them can be mechanized and, unless the farmer scales back production, there is no way an American can or will do the job before the crop rots in the field. Those who complained about the “illegal problem” will also be hurt because there will, eventually, be a rise in the cost of these foods.