Farmers in Illinois and across the country are afraid that the Trump administration’s hardline approach to immigration may decimate their available workforce. According to research into data from the U.S. Department of Labor by the Associated Press, as much as 46 percent of the workforce of the agricultural industry is made up of undocumented immigrants. In 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that increased deportations of agricultural workers could lead to substantial economic problems and result in food price increases of as much as 6 percent. The best immigration lawyer in Chicago believes that it is vitally important for the economy to create a system that allows undocumented immigrants to continue working within the agricultural industry.
Arrests Resulting in Fear
Few undocumented immigrants have been arrested within the agricultural industry, but some have been taken into custody in New York and Oregon. In New York, some apple-pickers were arrested, and in Oregon, some Guatemalans who were picking plants for floral arrangements were taken into custody. The fear has spread to the farmers as well who are concerned that their workers will be arrested. Fewer undocumented immigrants are applying for positions on farms, making it more difficult for the farmers to get their crops and fruit harvested.
Some immigration law hardliners argue that undocumented immigrants take jobs away from Americans, but that is not borne up by the data. In 2013, the Center for Global Development found that the impact of undocumented immigrants who work in agriculture is almost zero. Other proposals such as using jail labor or day laborers have fallen flat among farmers who state that most Americans simply will not take the jobs.
The only solution that appears to be tenable for the current situation within the agricultural industry is to make it easier for the farmers to seek and obtain enough H-2a visas for the workers that they need in a timely manner. The current process is beset with delays, leaving some farmers without the workers they need for a month or longer. The process should be streamlined so that the farmers can have the workers that they need on time for the growing season. One of the problems is that farmers are mandated to try to hire locally before they can get visas, and the best immigration lawyers in Chicago understand that this requirement simply leaves farmers facing lost profits because the American labor force is simply not available.