CIRS Blog about Rural California

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Changing Demographics

A Spring 2017 Washington Post survey found that rural Americans are uneasy about the changing demographics of the U.S. and believe their Christianity is under attack as the federal government caters to urban residents. For example, 42 percent of rural residents agree that immigrants are mostly a drain on the U.S., compared with 16 percent of urban residents. Two-thirds of rural residents say cracking down on illegal migrants would improve job prospects in their areas.

Rural was defined as non-metro counties and counties near population centers with up to 250,000 people, so that a quarter of Americans were considered rural in the poll. Pollsters say that the underlying issue is fairness, with rural residents skeptical of whom the federal government favors and helps.

Rural areas have had a weaker recovery from the 2008-09 recession than urban areas, and job growth has not returned to 2007 levels, prompting rural youth to leave for education and jobs and not return. A third of rural residents said that jobs and drug abuse were the biggest problems confronting their community, compared with 10 percent of urban residents.

The Wall Street Journal reported on May 26, 2017 that the total rural population declined in each of the past five years. Births in rural counties are declining, deaths are rising, and the median age of 41 is higher than the median 35 in large metro areas. Male labor force participation in rural counties is declining, and there are 60 disabled workers per 1,000 working age residents in rural counties, double the 30 per 1,000 rate in large metro areas.

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The number of Braceros admitted to the U.S. between 1942 and 1964 was almost five million. Many Mexicans returned year after year, so one to two million individuals accounted for the five million Bracero admissions.

During the peak year of 1956, over 445,000 Braceros were admitted to work on U.S. crop farms. Many Braceros were in the U.S. only for several months, so that an estimated 126,000 full-time equivalent jobs were filled by Braceros in 1956, a ratio of 3.5 Braceros per FTE job, suggesting that Braceros worked an average 3.4 months each. This average duration of three to four months was stable throughout the 1950s.

The average employment of hired workers on U.S. farms in 1956 was two million, suggesting that 126,000 FTE Braceros were six percent of the average hired farm workforce. Braceros were concentrated in California and other Pacific states, where there were an average of only 300,000 hired workers, making Braceros a third or more of average employment.

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Agriculture has two major sectors, crops and livestock. Crops require the most hired workers, many of whom work seasonally, while livestock employs a higher share of year-round workers. Total crop labor expenditures were $23 billion in 2012, and livestock labor expenditures were $10 billion.

All data sources agree that California has about 30 percent of U.S. crop worker employment, followed by three states with 5 to 6 percent, Washington, Florida and Texas. Two more states have about 3 percent of crop worker employment, Michigan and Oregon, so that over half of crop worker employment is in six states.

The distribution of hours worked in livestock is different. Texas and California each have 10 percent of livestock hours worked, followed by Wisconsin with 6 percent and Iowa and New York with almost 4 percent each, so that one third of livestock hours worked are in the five leading states. Livestock hours are less concentrated than crop hours because there is no California among livestock states.

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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.”

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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. 

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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.”

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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.

Bracero

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. In 1942 The United States began negotiations with the Mexican government to temporarily bring Mexican men into the country to fill the World War II labor shortage. The Braceros worked to build and repair America’s railroads but 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 World War II, the number of Braceros working in agriculture expanded far beyond the number of workers used during the war.

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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.

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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.

MigrationBoza1

 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?

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Removals_

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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.

fresno-county-map

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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