October 21, 2016

D.A. King in the Bucks County, PA Times Courier: On immigration, enforcement and facts matter

Posted by D.A. King at 10:10 am - Email the author   Print This Post Print This Post  


Bucks County Times Courier

On immigration, enforcement and facts matter

October 21, 2016
D.A. King

In his recent opinion piece on Donald Trump ( Deporting migrant workers and economic output  October 11, 2016 & pasted below), the crime of illegal immigration and the concept that we should not enforce our immigration laws, Theodore Cohen omits much and in my view gets a lot very wrong. Perhaps the most amusing is the premise that if we do not continue to use black-market labor on American farms, strawberries will vanish from our stores, or they will cost — wait for it … $20 a pound.

Cohen tells us of the profitable days of his youth shoveling snow and then tells us those happy times are over for American youth because commercial services are using illegal labor. And he doesn’t want that scenario to change.

It is not clear why he isn’t outraged that the crime of illegal immigration has stolen the opportunity for 21st century youth to live their American dream of “big coin” shoveling snow.

All Americans should honor and defend real immigrants. By federal definition, that sacred term applies to individuals who enter the United States lawfully with the intention of permanent residence. Illegal aliens are not “immigrants” and strawberries or not, intentionally blurring the line between the two groups is shameful.

More U.S. workers would do American farm work if earnings were higher, but a wage increase doesn’t seem to be on the horizon. But we still don’t need illegal workers.

Cohen doesn’t mention that agriculture is the only industry in the nation with its own temporary worker visa. The H2A Ag visa allows U.S. farmers to import an unlimited (no ceiling) number of legal, temporary, foreign workers. The rub here for many in the Ag business is that these H2A workers must be fairly paid. The illegal workers are cheaper.

Cohen’s baseless claim on the cost of lawfully produced strawberries seems to have been plucked out of thin air — or tossed out by the Ag lobby. We respectfully point him to the fact that labor costs represent a very small portion of the retail price of fruit.

According to Philip Martin, labor economist at the University of California, Davis, writing in the New York Times (Dec., 2011): “For a typical household, a 40 percent increase in farm labor costs translates into a 3.6 percent increase in retail prices. If farm wages rose 40 percent, and this wage increase were passed on to consumers, average spending on fresh fruits and vegetables would rise about $15 a year, the cost of two movie tickets. However, for a typical seasonal farm worker, a 40 percent wage increase could raise earnings from $10,000 for 1,000 hours of work to $14,000 — lifting the wage above the federal poverty line.”

Finally, Cohen cites unproven “the sky is falling” reports about the results of state bills aimed at illegal immigration, echoing his “no more strawberries for you!” fable. One claim focused on the 2011 passage of legislation — House Bill 87 — in my home state of Georgia as evidence to support the anti-enforcement agenda.

House Bill 87 was aimed at protecting jobs, benefits and services for legal residents, including immigrants — like my adopted sister. Fact: Georgia has more illegal aliens than Arizona.

The heart of HB 87 was the requirement for use of the no-cost federal employment verification system, E-Verify, for nearly all employers in Georgia, with the intention of driving illegals out of the state. It’s working. The number of illegals has declined. Many more growers are now using the H2A visa for labor needs.

Agriculture is Georgia’s No. 1 industry. In early 2011, to no one’s surprise, the anti-borders mob screamed in the streets that if put into law, HB 87 would encourage “racial profiling,” create second class “citizens” and would harm the state’s economy, particularly the agricultural industry. “No more peaches,” we were told.

Fast forward: According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Georgia’s agricultural exports reached an estimated $3 billion in 2013, up from $1.8 billion in 2009.

Since 2011 and passage of HB 87, Georgia been declared “the No. 1 state in which to do business” three times by the influential Site Selection magazine.

Facts matter.

D.A. King, a nationally recognized authority on immigration, is president of the Georgia-based, non-profit Dustin Inman Society. He assisted with creation and passage of Georgia’s House Bill 87 in 2011. www.TheDustinInmanSociety.org. Through early voting, he has voted for Donald Trump for president.   HERE


Original article

Deporting migrant workers and economic output

October 11, 2016

Theodore Cohen

As a boy growing up in the Midwest, March blizzards brought closed schools, hours of sledding, and opportunities for my brother, Ron, and me to earn big bucks shoveling our neighbors’ driveways and sidewalks. It wasn’t unusual for us to earn $50 in a day, big coin for two teenagers in the early ’50s. Now, in Middletown, the snow is removed by a service that employs foreign labor … good, hard-working people from “south of the border.”

All that would change in an administration run by Mr. Trump, who repeatedly has stated plans to deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants living in this country if he becomes president. He reiterated this proposal on his first day as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. [Note: at this writing, this still appears to be his position, though one never knows from day to day, given his wishy-washy position on the subject.] Setting aside the cost to implement such a plan — some estimates put the cost per immigrant at $10,000, making the total cost around $110 billion — one has to wonder whether the candidate has considered the consequences of such an action. After all, in Mr. Trump’s mind, these 11 million immigrants are nothing but criminals, drug dealers, and rapists, right? Wrong!

For better or for worse, the U.S. economy depends on foreign labor far more than most of us realize. To give you an idea of what would happen if even a small portion of the immigrants Mr. Trump wants to deport are actually sent home, consider what’s already happened in several states that cracked down on their immigrant populations. I’m not talking about deporting individuals or families; I’m referring to laws that affected their ability to work. For example, in 2011, the year after Arizona enacted SB 1070, or the “show me your papers” law, the state’s tourism industry lost $250 million and 3,000 jobs (after all, who do you think cleans the rooms, buses the tables, washes the dishes, and maintains the grounds at the state’s hotels and motels?). Alabama passed a similar law in 2011 (HB 56). The result? Because of a shortage of labor, work on farms and in factories across the state slowed so dramatically that the annual economic damage was estimated at about $11 billion.

And when Georgia enacted HB 87 in 2011 (an anti-immigration law that mirrors Arizona’s ill-fated 2010 law, SB 1070), it made life difficult for the undocumented migrant workers who normally would have helped to harvest that state’s fruits and vegetables. The loss of these workers — who quickly moved out of state — caused Georgia to lose as much as $1 billion in agricultural output alone as crops rotted in the field. Some farmers went bankrupt while others cut back on their plantings. As well, many small communities that relied on the money and consumption power of migrant workers withered.

Today, according to TakePart, prisoners are increasingly called upon to harvest what we’ve been putting on our tables, from “… Vidalia onions in Georgia to watermelons in Arizona to apples in Washington to the potatoes of southern Idaho.” Taken together, the impact of the various state laws to address undocumented immigrants has been to severely impact state revenues, lower farm output, and reduce tourism while, at the same time, raising the cost of produce for you and me.

The problem is not going to be resolved anytime soon, regardless of what is done vis-à-vis immigration. It should be obvious that Americans aren’t willing to take the more difficult farm jobs while Hispanics, who traditionally have worked in this area, are moving on to better paying jobs in packing plants and other industrial areas. This, of course, has forced labor costs to rise, which translates into higher food costs.

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Now consider what could happen if Mr. Trump, upon being elected president, fulfills his plan to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants. How does $20 for a pound of strawberries sound on your next trip to the supermarket … assuming you can even find some to purchase?


Theodore J. Cohen, Ph.D., of Middletown is a novelist and short-story writer. He spent more than 40 years in Washington, watching what went on inside the Beltway first