David Mas Masumoto writes
on Common Dreams:
Without passage of immigration reform, I canâ€™t get enough help to harvest my fruits. This work is transient and something most Americans wonâ€™t do, even with higher wages.
The reader comments were far from universally supportive:
Kent Shaw replied:
And of course Mr. Matsumoto pays for his workersâ€™ medical care when they are injured on his farms or in his orchards. He also pays for their education, and provides them transportation as needed since the workers donâ€™t have driver licenses. When his workers commit crimes in our country he certainly pays his workersâ€™ legal bills and pays compensation to the crime victims. Mr. Matsumoto in fact pays ALL of the social costs that go with having â€?undocumented workersâ€? in this country. If only ALL employers of â€?undocumented workersâ€? were as conscientous as Mr. Matsumoto.
Why must the only people capable of farm labor be immigrants? Why canâ€™t a citizen of this country be able to make a living in agriculture as a farm laborer? Why do we allow the only industry vital to life to be exploited by agribusiness greed? Organic sustainable agriculture is suposed to provide a living wage to itâ€™s workers.
My own comment
I grew up on a farm in rural Missouri. I`ve actually done a lot of farm work.When Masumoto says Without passage of immigration reform, I canâ€™t get enough help to harvest my fruit" He`s saying something like: under existing economic conditions, my farm is only profitable because of the availability of immigrant labor.
The thing is, this is a race to the bottom. The increased availability of immigrant labor only increased profit margins briefly. Once illegal immigrants get their green cards, their interest in jobs like those Mr. Masumoto can offer decrease rapidly. What those folks are really working for isn`t their meager wages-but a shot at a valuable US green card.Businesses that rely on illegal immigration depend on other tax payers to pay for education, healthcare, infrastructure and the costs of crime associated with the workers they bring into the US.Even if employers like Masumoto are forced to either pay a living wage or go out of business, the price American consumers pay will increase only a small amount. Less than $.10 of every dollar you pay at the grocery store actually goes to farmers.If illegal immigration is taken seriously, we`ll see more smaller and owner operated farms. The larger farms will simply have to be sold to pay for things like immigration fines. Those fines will have to be substantial-and enforced-to be effective. If they aren`t, farmers like Masumoto will be forced to use illegal alien labor to stay in business-just like Virginia planters were once forced either use African slaves or get out that business. I think history has shown that slavery was a huge moral and economic mistake in the long term-and history will show recent immigration practices are a similarly horrible mistake.
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