Thursday, May 17, 2012

California Agri-Business Moving Some Operations to Mexico to Find Skilled Agricultural Labor – Not Enough Illegal Immigrants in the U. S.

If That Makes any Sense

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 U.S. 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.

No one wants to admit that part of the U. S. 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.

California's Illegal Immigrant Shortage
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 America,” he says. “There’s been a huge migration of skilled agricultural labor into Mexico.” Cox says he now employs 2,000 people there, compared with 1,200 in Southern California.

Every hear of the Law of Unintended Consequences?   Next time you pay $6.50 a pound for asparagus, you are experiencing it.

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