July 8, 2010
With the recent lawsuit against Arizona by the Justice Department and proposals for comprehensive reform, such as the DREAM Act and AgJOBS, immigration has once again become a prominent political issue. During a time of economic hardship, many feel that these policies will only lead to a surge of more illegal immigration and, thus, fewer jobs for Americans.
According to a study by the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), illegal immigration costs federal and local taxpayers $113 billion a year. FAIR examined the results of amnesty programs that were adopted in 1986. The findings led FAIR to encourage policies that would diminish the current illegal immigrant population through "denial of job opportunities and deportations."
In light of growing anti-immigration rhetoric, the United Farm Workers union (UFW) launched a campaign called "Take Our Jobs". CCN Money reports that there are nearly one million farm workers in the U.S. 85 percent of these workers are immigrants and up to 70 percent of them are illegal. According to the campaign's website, Take Our Jobs will hire U.S. citizens and legal residents to take the jobs of undocumented farm workers. Those who are interested are encouraged to apply online and the union will help applicants find farm jobs in their areas. The goal of the campaign is to draw attention to the need for immigration reform. At least half a million applicants are needed to replace immigrant farm workers, showing that illegal workers are a major component of America's economy. Rob Williams, director of the Migrant Farm Worker Justice Project, points out that if those who oppose immigration "got their wish and all the unauthorized people went home tomorrow, we would have a crisis...it's the most important job for all of us, because we all eat".
Farming is a back-breaking job and workers endure triple-digit temperatures with little to no pay; usually without benefits. Despite anti-immigration support and the dismal job market, most are not willing to take on such an undesirable job.
According to FresnoBee.com, UFW has received 4,818 inquiries since the campaign launched on June 24. About half of those inquiries have been hate mail and so far, only three people have gone through the entire process and found jobs on a farm. "Many of those who inquired, or took the initial steps, felt disappointed after realizing that some of those jobs required them to relocate. Or the pay was not what they were expecting, or that they have to travel and there was no travel reimbursement."
Although UFW has opposed guest-worker programs, such as AgJOBS, the union says it has accepted reality and hopes to reach a compromise. "The UFW wants to encourage a dialogue to seek a solution that will allow these hard-working men and women to come out of the shadows and fully contribute to American society," says Maria Machuca, spokeswoman for UFW.
Compiled by Heidi M. Agustin
"Farm workers: Take our jobs, please!," CNNMoney.com, July 7, 2010, Aaron Smith
"Illegal Immigration a $113 Billion a Year Drain on U.S. Taxpayers," fairus.org, July 6, 2010, Federation for American Immigration Reform
"Take Our Jobs: About the Campaign," takeourjobs.org, June 16, 2010, United Farm Workers
"Time is now to get real about immigration reform," fresnobee.com, July 7, 2010, Bill McEwen