CIRS Blog about Rural California
WASHINGTON —California Republican Rep. David Valadao of Hanford is pushing for an immigration overhaul, placing himself in the middle of the very issue that’s ripping both parties apart.
Through public statements, legislation and now an earnestly worded plea to President Donald Trump, Valadao has positioned himself as one of the few congressional Republicans daring to support a comprehensive package that includes a pathway to legal status for immigrants who are already in this country illegally.
“For too long, extremes on either side of the aisle have discouraged constructive discussion regarding immigration,” Valadao said in the two-page letter sent to Trump on Tuesday, “but I believe with new executive leadership, now is the time to enact meaningful reform.”
Seasonality is a characteristic of agriculture. Some seasons are busy, others less so. Busy times mean more employees — and less busy times – well, seasonality in farming is why it has always been hard for farmworkers to find year-round steady work. Most people still think of farmworkers as migrants, moving from one part of the country to the next, following the harvest as crops mature. For migrant farmworkers from time immemorial, there have always been periods of time when work is scarce. This is unlike almost any other profession. Sure, teachers have traditionally had time off in the summer. Landscaping and construction are also kind-of seasonal. But I think not to the extent that is built into the very nature of farming. Harvest time is fraught with urgency — the crop must be in the barn and out of the rain, or at the processing plant and out of the field, in a short window of time, or it will be lost. All the effort of keeping the crop safe, growing it from a seed to a grain, or from a bud to a fruit, can be for naught, if the harvest fails for one reason or another.
By Michael Doyle and William Douglas
WASHINGTON — Republican lawmakers from California’s San Joaquin Valley are now at the forefront of challenging party orthodoxy on immigration, a dissident position that brings both promise and peril.
On Thursday, doubling down at a party retreat, Rep. Jeff Denham kept the spotlight on sharp disagreements over immigration control. The move came one day after Denham joined fellow Valley Republican David Valadao and some others in the GOP in opposing strict immigration measures pushed by party leaders.
“I think it’s going to be a renewed debate,” Denham said in an interview Thursday. “It will give us an opportunity to come together on some good reforms.”
In the last fiscal year alone, 368,644 immigrants were removed from the United States. Since 2009, the number of deported immigrants is more than 1.9 million and as deportation rates have increased throughout the Obama administration, President Obama, and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) have received harsh criticism for their immigration enforcement policies. At his 2013 year-end press conference Obama said, “immigration reform is probably the biggest thing I wanted to get done this year.” Even if federal legislation continues to stall, 2014 marks 50 years since the termination of the Bracero Program and as we revisit the Bracero period, we have the opportunity to honor the tremendous labor sacrifices of both the Braceros and the immigrant farmworkers that serve as the backbone of America's agricultural economy.
From the Spanish word “brazo,” meaning “arm,” the Braceros were 4.6 million Mexican nationals who worked legally in the United States from 1942-1964 under the largest guest worker program in U.S. history, the Bracero Program, formally known as the Mexican Farm Labor Program. Infill the World War II labor shortage. The the majority worked as field laborers in agriculture. These Unsung Heroes supported America’s war effort by providing food aid for the Allied Forces and following
Posted on the McClatchy website on Thursday, September 5, 2013
WASHINGTON — Farmers’ congressional allies are pressuring the Obama administration to ease up on some immigration work-site enforcement, underscoring a conflict at the heart of a broad-based immigration bill.
This week, spurred by complaints from farmers in California’s Central Valley, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein publicly urged the Department of Homeland Security to “redirect” immigration enforcement efforts toward “serious violent crimes” instead of “legitimate agricultural employers and their workers.”
“The reality is that the majority of farmworkers in the U.S. are foreign-born and unauthorized, which is well-known,” Feinstein wrote Tuesday, adding that she’s “afraid that this aggressive worksite enforcement strategy will deprive the agricultural sector of most of its workforce.”
Worksite monitoring has definitely heated up.
As you walk into the Casa del Migrante (a migrant shelter) in the historic center of Guatemala City, you will see a sign to the right that reads: “To migrate is not a crime. Crime is that which causes migration.” One way to read this sign is that the factors that provoke migration are so severe they could be considered criminal.
1997 calendar in the Casa del Migrante that continues to have relevance in 2013
People migrate to be with their families, to provide for their families, and to escape violence. In essence, people migrate to have their human rights met.
Is it a crime that children in Guatemala grow up without their parents because their parents live in the United States and can’t afford to reunite with them? Is it a crime that parents of U.S. citizens are deported to Guatemala and may never see their children again? Is it a crime that Guatemalan children are obliged to join criminal gangs and must flee their towns to escape death? Or, is it a crime to emigrate under these circumstances? Increasingly, the United States is prosecuting would-be migrants found along the border, and placing them in private prisons. Is it a crime to profit from other people’s desperation?
By Hannah Guzik
Demetria Martinez is sitting in a state funded children’s center in Oxnard, wrapping her baby daughter in a shawl, when worry invades her face. Her daughter is sick, she says. Something about her heart. The doctors told her, but she didn’t understand.
Martinez is speaking Mixteco—an indigenous Mexican language full of clicks and tones not used in English or Spanish—but she conveys her emotion without words too. Twisting the ends of her rebozo, frayed from all the baby wearing and worrying, she says what she does understand is that she’s still making payments on a $1,700 hospital bill for the tests doctors did on her 5-month-old daughter.
“I can’t afford it,” she says, speaking through an interpreter. “I’m worried too much about it, and I don’t know what to do. They said her heart isn’t working right. They said her heart is not OK.”
By New American Media Health Editor Viji Sundaram
Originally published on the New American Media website on June 30, 2013.
New American Media Editor’s Note: After spending two years among indigenous farm workers in Mexico and in labor camps in the United States, medical anthropologist Dr. Seth M. Holmes documents how market forces, anti-immigrant sentiment and racism undermine their health and access to health care in his book, Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States. He spoke to NAM Health Editor Viji Sundaram.
The recent senate border security decision (June 24, 2013) to increase the size of the Border Patrol by 20,000 agents, add 700 miles of fence, and deploy $3.2 billion in military equipment is likely to increase border deaths if current Border Patrol policies are continued. Most media coverage of the senate agreement and on the increasing deaths in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands does not examine the ways in which Border Patrol policies and actions contribute directly to the high number of deaths on the border this year. For example, last week’s LA Times article titled, “In 30 days, Border Patrol rescues 177 people from Arizona desert,” leaves out crucial background details related to the ways in which Border Patrol policies directly contribute to rising numbers of deaths on the border.
By Daniel Weintraub
It’s fair to say that California is the richest state in the nation. We have more millionaires than any other state, and mansions dot our coastal bluffs and inland canyons.
But California is also, arguably, the poorest state in the nation. We have more people in poverty — 6.1 million — and more children in poverty than any other state.
Even more ominously, a new measure of poverty shows that California has the highest percentage of its population living below the poverty line.
By the traditional measure, California’s poverty rate is 16.6 percent, 20th in the nation. But the new, supplemental measure released last year by the Census Bureau puts California at the top of the list with a poverty rate of 23.5 percent.
By David Runsten, Richard Mines and Sandra Nichols
The great failure of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) was that it did not provide for a continuing legal flow of new immigrants to manually–skilled labor markets. People will keep coming if there is a demand for their labor and what is required is a policy that legalizes and manages this flow in the most efficient and least-cost manner. The research strongly suggests that the net economic impact of immigrant labor is positive, and that employment of U.S. workers is highly complementary to immigrant labor in manually-skilled labor markets.
Since 1997, the United States has deported 4 million people - twice as many as the sum total of all people deported between 1892 and 1996.
The rise in deportations (removals) after 1996 was due to a change in laws. However, the more recent increase is not because of any legislative changes. Instead, it is a direct consequence of Congress appropriating increasing amounts of money for immigration law enforcement. Congress appropriates these funds because the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) requests them.
Recovery in the Valley
California began to recover from the 2008-09 recession in 2012. Employment rose from 16.2 million in January 2012 to 16.5 million in November 2012, and the unemployment rate dropped from 11.3 to 9.8 percent.
In Fresno county, a bellwether for the San Joaquin Valley, the labor force was stable at 441,000 in 2012 but employment rose from 367,000 to 380,000. Fresno's unemployment rate dropped from 17 percent in January 2012 to 14 percent in October 2012.
Originally posted on the New America Media website on Jan. 23, 2013.
Editor’s Note: There are an estimated 600,000 crop workers, and an additional 20,000 livestock workers, in California at any given time. Theirs are physically demanding jobs that carry a high risk of occupational injury – yet the vast majority of these workers lack health insurance. That could change in 2014 when the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented, although significant barriers will need to be overcome between now and then, if most farmworkers are to benefit. Don Villarejo has worked for more than three decades as a researcher and advocate on behalf of California farmworkers, and has authored major studies on farmworker health in the state. He recently spoke to New America Media editor Jacob Simas.
As agriculture faces the task of doubling production by 2050, one of the major challenges is developing a workforce for the 21st century. Many of us who grew up on farms in the last century remember a day when most farm work was done by family members. Indeed, it wasn’t so long ago that more than 60% of the U.S. agricultural labor force was comprised of family labor. Today 60% of farm labor is hired. Of that hired work force 75% are foreign-born and best estimates suggest that half are undocumented.
The view a PDF of the report with figures and additional information please click here.
The U.S. Supreme Court in June 2012 upheld the show-me-your-papers provision of Arizona’s SB 1070 law while reaffirming the federal government’s authority over immigration policy making. The Court, which in May 2011 upheld another Arizona law that required all employers to use the Internet-based E-Verify to check the legal status of new hires, may have opened the door for more states to enact laws to crack down on unauthorized foreigners. There is unlikely to be significant federal legislation immigration legislation in 2012 and perhaps not in 2013–14.
California Institute for Rural Studies organized a small group session at the “Strengthening Regional Food Systems” conference recently held at University of California, Davis. This conference was organized to discuss how policy changes and actions by the private sector and other stakeholders can address impediments to the creation of strong regional food systems and to support innovative initiatives currently underway at the local, regional, and national levels. The meeting was also intended to build stronger partnerships among key actors working on various aspects of regional food systems. The meeting was organized and hosted by AGree.
The shortage of farm labor is an issue that California farmers have complained about this summer. Leaders from the California Farm Bureau said, “farmers are telling us that the workers they usually see in the spring just didn't show up this year. We're just not seeing the number of people we (usually) see this time of year."
Manuel Cunha of the Nisei Farmers League predicted that labor shortages could reach 80,000 of the peak of 250,000 workers that are employed in California's San Joaquin Valley, which Cunha says is similar to the "worker shortage" of 1998. Cunha said that many farmworker crews were 10 to 15 percent smaller than the usual 20 to 30 workers.
There are many issues related to California’s Central Valley that have been in the news recently. Topics such as social justice, farmworker health and labor conditions, immigration and its role in labor fluctuations/shortages, how pesticides are affecting drainwater and the health of people and animals living in the Valley and the ability of lawmakers to shift the future of agriculture in the country. This post is a collection of these issues. Hopefully this will be an opportunity to learn more about a topic you were unaware of, or a chance to learn more about issues currently influencing the region.
California is at the leading edge of demographic change in the United States, as the state’s cities, suburbs, and rural towns are inhabited by millions of foreign-born, and their children, who now account for half of California’s population. Many of these groups have been around for generations and have influenced California’s culture—from its arts and politics to its customs and cuisine. Yet, these same groups are often scapegoated when it comes to the state’s sluggish economy, overburdened hospitals, or underperforming schools. The numbers, however, do not tell the full story of how these Californians are shaping the physical and cultural landscape of the state.