Fresh fruit and vegetable growers in upstate New York say they’re being unfairly targeted by immigration enforcement groups.
The unfairness hits on two main levels.
First, they say U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement uses racial profiling and “extreme” enforcement primarily on Hispanics in the area, which may not be legal.
Second, the growers say they’re being held to immigration and labor standards that competing areas are not subject to.
Immigration is as hot a hot-button issue as there is. It’s so hot politicians are afraid to deal with it, constantly putting reform off to a future election cycle.
In the meantime, the real world of crop cycles needing to be harvested continues.
Agriculture in general, but the produce industry specifically, is often in a difficult spot with immigration, as it’s a beneficiary of illegal labor. Consumers, who pay less for product being harvested with illegal labor, also benefit.
These facts make the “unfair enforcement” argument tougher with the existing laws.
However, the industry may have a more “fightable” angle with inconsistent enforcement among geographic regions.
There’s no reason a New York grower should have to deal with immigration officials differently than his Florida or Washington competitors.
Produce industry leaders should work with local and national government officials to determine consistent labor rules and enforcement, so the growing community can harvest its product in any region.
Immigration is proving to be an issue best dealt with on smaller terms because too few people have the guts or political capital to make larger, tougher decisions.
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