New York apple interests alerted me to an unfolding story in upstate New York, where growers are concerned that their work force may be at risk because of what they call racial profiling by border patrol agents.

Here is coverage of the story from www.syracuse.com.. Here is the link

From the story:

Wolcott, NY -- The Wayne County Farm Bureau is requesting a federal inquiry into the U.S. Border Patrol stop and subsequent detention of four Mexican farm workers Monday on Route 414.

The border patrol officer in charge of the scene told the men's employer their car was stopped because the men "looked suspicious at us" as they passed the border patrol sedan.

"This is a clear case of racial profiling," said Wayne County Farm Bureau President Phil Wagner, who was present at the stop. He said this is the latest incident of an increase of Homeland Security enforcement activities in the county during the past two years.

Wagner said he believes Border Patrol seems to be targeting western New York, and Wayne County in particular.
A.J. Price, speaking for the Border Patrol, said Border Patrol agents do not racially profile. He said these men were questioned because their car was stopped in the intersection of Routes 414 and 104 in Wolcott and was blocking traffic.

Wayne County Farm Bureau and the New York Apple Association, as well as U.S. Apple in Washington, D.C. and Rep. Dan Maffei, D-Syracuse, have been monitoring Border Patrol stops in Wayne County.
Farm Bureau and the apple growers have made numerous complaints about what they call racial profiling in Wayne County, the state's largest apple producing county. Maffei had a meeting with Homeland Security officials last month to discuss the situation.
Border Patrol is a part of the Homeland Security agency.

Price said Farm Bureau officials and apple growers in Wayne County have been told if they see any unprofessional or unwarranted behavior by a Border Patrol agent, they are supposed to file a complaint with Border Patrol. He said no one has filed a complaint.
Wagner said the officer in charge at the Aug. 17 stop accused the workers of being illegal and accused their employer, Brian Doyle of Wolcott, of "being a federal criminal."

Doyle, who has employed the men for several years, said the men have legitimate paperwork and Social Security numbers. But Price said the problem is migrant workers sometimes show a farm owner paperwork that is not authentic.
A check of the men's vehicle at the scene by the state police showed no issues and there were no outstanding warrants issued for them. They were held by Border Patrol to have their paperwork checked and were found to be illegal, Price said.
The four men now are in the deportation process, Price said.

Doyle and Wagner as well as two other farmers, went to the scene of the stop which Wagner said is near where they both live. Wagner said Doyle asked the Border Patrol officers several times why the workers were stopped, but the officers would not initially answer the question.

Neither of the two officers at the scene would identify themselves by name or show identification. Price said Border Patrol agents do not have to answer questions from third parties and do not have to show identification if they are uniformed officers.

Some reader comments to that online story:

Another example of corporate greed on a smaller scale. If they paid a decent wage American's would do the work. The farmer should go to jail, what he did was against the law. Make an example of him.
Racial profiling? Do you want them to stop a car load of blond Sweeds. Give me a break. Always some law breaker saying the system is wrong. Good work Border Patrol, keep it up.


Another said:

So, the Agents are being criticized for stopping two individuals who, based on the Agents TRAINING looked suspicious, in an area where there are a lot of migrant workers. Just because they are far from the Southern Border doesn't mean they are all legal ... and I don't think Canada has a lot of citizens coming to pick apples in NY. That's not to say that the Border Patrol shouldn't be looking North, but racial profiling does not apply to this situation.

They are also being criticized for saying that the people in the vehicle were Federal criminals, but they WERE Federal criminals by being in the country illegally! Not to mention that if the documents they possessed were fake. Why didn't they try to come into the US legally? Maybe they DO have a criminal record and they were turned down by the US. Just food for thought.

I wonder why the Farm Bureau is so upset with the Border Patrol doing the job they have been trained to do ... maybe because it's costing them money? Hmmmmm .....



TK: As you can tell by these reader comments, the point of view of growers is not always understood or embraced. Despite the populist line – “do you want them to stop a car of blond Swedes?” - the fact that the workers were Hispanic clearly should not be cause to stop the car by federal agents.

In the long term, farmers can’t continue to produce food for our country without a legal work force. In large part, they don’t have that now These farm workers had apparently legal documentation when they were hired, though – as in many cases - the documentation was false.

Border patrol agents are trying to do their job – arguably with too much zeal  - but clearly there is a tension between the farm community and federal enforcement officials that is unhealthy and damaging to New York’s economic health.

New York apple grower and incoming chairman John Teeple, passionate about this issue, said the industry needs to put a new face of the immigration debate.  Passage of AgJobs legislation, a longstanding and elusive goal, remains in the crosshairs of U.S. Apple.

“We’re tired of fighting this battle, but we cannot give up,” he said.

There is nothing else to say until legislators hash out a lasting solution to this problem that satisfies the need for a secure border and an adequate legal workforce for growers.