You wouldn’t know it from the mainstream press and you certainly wouldn’t know it from the rantings of the political campaign but the Obama administration has been very successful at reducing the flow of illegal immigrants crossing into the
United States from Mexico. Republicans won’t admit it but the problem
was much worse under the administration of George W. Bush. Of course Bush should get some credit, after all his Great Recession has also played a role.
Officials apprehended 327,600 people trying to enter the
Southwest illegally in 2011,
down from a peak of 1.17 million in 2005, according to the Department of
Homeland Security. One big reason more Mexicans aren’t crossing the border: the
recession. “When they come over here, they can’t find jobs,” says Hildy
Carrillo, executive director of the Calexico Chamber of Commerce. That’s because
unemployed roofers and builders took work picking crops. U.S.
No one wants to admit that part of the
economy is heavily dependent on immigrant labor, both legal and illegal. Alabama and Georgia have
passed tough immigrant laws, and both states are seeing their agri-business
sector suffer from lack of employees.
And the biggest state problem of course is in California
where employers are taking business out of the state and to, get this, Mexico.
|Farmers rely on Mexican workers—who they say are more skilled|
than Americans—to harvest labor-intensive crops like asparagus,
which must be sorted by length, bundled, and bound
with rubber bands before packaging
For Jack Vessey, taking business over the border someday isn’t out of the question. “If I can’t get people on this side of the border to pick the crops before they wilt and die, then we may have to go where the labor is,” says the Holtville farmer.
Lawrence Cox has already gone south, transferring more of his labor-intensive crops such as cilantro, asparagus, and kale from Brawley to land in Mexico’s Mexicali Valley, which he started farming in 1991 when cost pressures from the looming Nafta trade deal were his biggest worry. “We can’t draw enough labor to get it done in
he says. “There’s been a huge migration of skilled agricultural labor into America .” Cox
says he now employs 2,000 people there, compared with 1,200 in Mexico Southern California.
Every hear of the Law of Unintended Consequences? Next time you pay $6.50 a pound for asparagus, you are experiencing it.