Senator Craig`s AgJOBS Amnesty—Feeding AgriBusiness` Cheap Labor Addiction

Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) is

staking his career
on the stalled AgJOBS bill—the
measure that will give three million illegal farmworkers

temporary
work permits and a chance to

hit the jackpot:
American citizenship.

In
an October 8th speech on the Senate floor, he
spoke brazenly in

support of the bill
that, by his own admission,
"nobody

wants to deal with.
"

Craig nevertheless threatened to continue to bring his
AgJOBS bill up for a vote until he succeeded.

Said Craig about the millions of aliens who would
eventually be amnestied by AgJOBS,


"By their presence,
they better us. They make our lives better, and in this
issue with American agriculture, there is no question,
they help to produce the abundance on the supermarket
shelves and the family tables of America.

Apparently, the motto for the immigration enthusiasts is,
"Damn the torpedoes!

Full speed ahead
."

I
was struck by the timing of Craig`s diatribe. One week
earlier, the University of California at Davis hosted a

daylong seminar
to review the "provisions" and
"likely implementation issues" of AgJOBS.

The most interesting thing about the much-heralded "AgJOBS
and Immigration Reform Conference,"
as it was billed,
is that in reality it was a gathering of

immigration lawyers
and brazen

subversives
.

Among the featured speakers who traveled a mighty long
way from Washington DC were:

Also featured were local advocates:

  • U.S. Representative
    Howard Berman (D-Cal). Berman, a co-sponsor of AgJOBS.
    Berman has supported legislation that favors illegal
    aliens thirty times since 1999.

One of the event sponsors was the

Rosenberg Foundation
, which lists as its

priority


"Projects designed to
achieve change in public social policy regarding
immigrant integration through employment, language access
and immigrant rights."

Goldstein, summarizing how his coalition views AgJOBS,
alleges that it is important to reward "unauthorized
immigrants"
by creating an "earned legalization"
program:


"Applicants could
obtain a temporary immigration status by proving that
they been employed in U.S. agriculture in the recent past
either as a legal guest worker or as an undocumented
worker. If the temporary resident then performs a
specified amount of agricultural work, during a three to
six year period, he or she could convert to lawful
permanent resident status and receive a `green card.`
Security checks would prevent terrorists, criminals and
other unwanted individuals from using the program. The
farm worker`s spouse and minor children also would
eventually become eligible to be immigrants.
"
[Farmworkers
Deserve Immigration Solutions
, Not Excuses,
October 4, 2004, By Bruce Goldstein]

Further, Goldstein argues that,


"Some object to AgJOBS
saying that people who crossed our borders illegally
should not be `rewarded` with an `amnesty.` AgJOBS is not
an `amnesty.` It contains tough, multi-year work
requirements to earn immigration status.

And finally that,


"These farm workers
already live and work in the United States; this nation
has not been willing, and is not going, to

deport them.
"

Oh
yeah? It remains to be seen whether the U.S. can summon
the will to deport illegal aliens. And Goldstein`s
position has several flaws.

  • First and most
    obviously, AgJOBS

    is an amnesty
    . How else can you define a program
    wherein people enter the US illegally but then are
    offered a path to citizenship?

  • Secondly, how
    "tough"
    really are the work requirements that lead
    to amnesty? To qualify, a worker must prove 100 days of

    agricultural employment
    in the 18-month period that
    ended Aug. 31, 2003. Then, prior to receiving amnesty,
    workers would have to show 360 days of additional farm
    work over the next six years.

That translates to roughly

sixty working days per year.


"We have an immigration
system that is totally overwhelmed with millions of
transactions that they don`t seriously oversee. AgJOBS
would add millions more transactions to that work
overload. Who believes that each of these amnestied
workers would truly be screened when that isn`t happening
for the legal entrants already in the queue?


“We need to be removing
work from DHS to get better security, not adding to it."

Here are a few points that Goldstein conveniently
overlooked:

  • The U.S. has never
    demonstrated the slightest ability to administer any
    immigration or non-immigrant visa program. All previous
    amnesties have

    resulted in abuse and fraud.
    The AgJOBS bill would
    be more of the same.

  • Amnesties beget
    amnesties. Since 1986, Congress has passed seven
    amnesties. Currently, eight bills are pending that
    could become the next amnesty.

Instead of constantly debating about how to fairly treat
these long-suffering and exploited workers, we should
instead be focused on

eliminating the need for laborers
—by moving more
rapidly toward agricultural mechanization.

This week I spoke with Galen K. Brown, a co-author of a
December 2000 Center for Immigration Studies Report
titled

"Alternatives to Immigrant Labor? The Status of Fruit
and Vegetable Harvest Mechanization in the United
States."

I
asked Brown, recently retired from the Florida Department
of Citrus, if the US had made any progress on
mechanization since his paper was published.


"Very little,"

he replied. "Almost no research and development work
on mechanization has been done by either states or the
federal government. It has been left to the growers who
cannot afford to do it."


"Hand labor is not the
long term solution but automation is. Growers could cut
costs and workers would earn a living wage. Yet nothing
has happened,"

Brown concluded.

Impressive statistics published in

Rural Migration News
that support Brown`s
conclusions.

Mechanization
means less reliance on

manual labor
and, in the long run, lower costs to
growers.

After talking with Brown, I realized even more clearly
how misguided Craig and his Congressional colleagues are.

For the sake of the growers, the workers and the
consumers, Congress should rearrange its priorities to
emphasize funding

farm mechanization research
instead of promoting
endless amnesties.

A
shift away from repeated amnesties and guest worker
programs driven by Congress and special interest groups
would create agricultural conditions that are truly, to
use Craig`s own words from his Senate speech, "safe,
productive and economically beneficial".

Joe Guzzardi [email
him], an instructor in English at the Lodi
Adult School, has been writing a weekly newspaper column
since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.