We should appreciate and not vilify workers without documents for the value they bring to state and national economies, and the world’s food stream.
FAR too much attention has been paid to Donald Trump’s vile words regarding immigrants from Mexico. Neither his words nor his ignorant, self-serving perspectives on the issue deserve repeating here.
Our hope, though, is the American public will pause to better understand the economics and human dimensions of immigration rather than falling prey to Trump’s sweeping, inaccurate and denigrating characterizations.
Unquestionably, immigrants have been coming to the United States without legal papers for decades — their coming and staying were made easy by our government, beginning with those who write the laws.
For nearly two decades, Congress purposely refrained from approving E-Verify, a proposal that would require all employers to verify the authenticity of worker-provided Social Security numbers.
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Employers — some benefiting from undocumented immigrant labor — know the drill: Meet the letter of the law — collect and maintain records of workers’ Social Security numbers. But not to worry, Congress has your back. No Social Security verification is required. Lawmakers have been educated by employers to understand that losing hardworking immigrant laborers would have dire consequences on our economy.
Additionally, it is well-chronicled in newspapers stretching from Washington state to Georgia how members of Congress intervene to stop agricultural raids during harvest seasons.
The outcome in Washington, Oregon, Georgia, North Carolina and other states: Latino populations have skyrocketed — many of those immigrants are without documents. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Washington state’s Latino population grew by 252 percent during the last two census periods, increasing to 755,790 in 2010 from 214,570 in 1990.
Their presence in Washington is most visible in agriculture. According to state farm groups, roughly 66,000 of more than 92,000 workers needed for seasonal harvests in 2011 were “document challenged.”
The figures beg the question: Is there evidence that Latino population growth has helped or hurt Washington’s economy?
For starters, U.S. Department of Agriculture reports show that fresh-market value of Washington-grown apples increased to $2.5 billion 2012 from $488 million in 1986. During the same period, Washington’s sweet cherries increased in value to $491 million from $59 million. Washington ranks No.1 in production of these crops, producing 57 percent of apples and 51 percent of sweet cherries grown in the nation.
Now, connect the dots. Compare the growth in values — 412 percent for apples, and 732 percent for sweet cherries — to 252 percent Latino population growth.
Little wonder that Wenatchee is known as the “Apple Capital of the World” and farm groups justifiably proclaim Washington as the “Refrigerator to the World.”
Thus, we should appreciate and not vilify workers without documents for the value they bring to state and national economies, and the world’s food stream. In large part, due to these workers, the U.S. agricultural system is lauded internationally for its productivity and quality, and we all benefit as consumers.
This should be the context for how immigration reform is debated and reformed. And Donald Trump should be dismissed as an attention-seeking, bellicose guy with bad hair and money who will never be president.