In the fight for a comprehensive immigration reform, California farmers are among the top employers suffering the consequences. Some have to cancel harvesting because there is a lack of workers, costing them thousands of dollars in losses. The Los Angeles Times reported that according to Rayne Pegg, head of the California Farm Bureau’s policy division, roughly two-thirds of the state’s crop workers are illegal.
Santa Maria-based farmer Mark Teixeira had to let 22 acres of vegetables rot last year because there were not enough workers to help harvest his crops. Many native-born citizens are unwilling to take jobs in agriculture, including those who have grown up farming. Similarly, harvesting is a high-labor and highly skilled job for which many people are unqualified.
“I’m not proud to say I hire illegal aliens,” Teixeira, whose family has been farming for five generations, told the Times. “Everyone has to show ‘documentation.’ But I don’t work for [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement]. Bottom line, if I have to verify everyone, I’m not going to be able to harvest my crop.”
With higher security at the border, California farmers have had more difficulty finding workers compared with three or four years ago. According to Pegg, the H-2A federal program that allows temporary entry for foreign agricultural workers doesn’t work properly for farmers because workers are needed in a timely fashion for picking and harvesting.
Hiring undocumented immigrants will become even more challenging if proposed biometric ID cards, which have been backed by several leaders in immigration reform, get passed through legislation. This ID requires individuals to get fingerprints, a scan of the veins in the top of a person’s hand and other unique traits to prove their identities.