Fearing a Worker Shortage, Farmers Push Back on Immigration

In this March 1, 2017, photo, Marta Guembes, Guatemala’s honorary consul in Portland, Ore., talks about how she has been trying to help Guatemalan immigrants who were detained in the predominantly Latino town, during an interview in Woodburn, Ore. Speaking outside the offices of PCUN, a union representing farmworkers, nursery and reforestation workers in Oregon, Guembes says such detentions cause enormous pain for families in Woodburn and in Guatemala that receive money from relatives working in the U.S. (AP Photo/Andrew Selsky) The Associated Press

Farmers around the U.S. are worried that the Trump administration crackdown on immigrants will deprive them of the workers they need.

JUNCTION CITY, Ore. (AP) — The head of Bethel Heights Vineyard looked out over the 100 acres of vines her crew of 20 Mexicans had just finished pruning, worried about what will happen if the Trump administration presses ahead with its crackdown on immigrants.

From tending the plants to harvesting the grapes, it takes skill and a strong work ethic to produce the winery’s pinot noir and chardonnay, and native-born Americans just aren’t willing to work that hard, Patricia Dudley said as a cold rain drenched the vineyard in the hills of Oregon.

“Who’s going to come out here and do this work when they deport them all?” she asked.

President Donald Trump’s hard line against immigrants in the U.S. illegally has sent a chill through the nation’s agricultural industry, which fears a crackdown will deprive it of the labor it needs to plant, grow and pick the crops that feed the country.

Fruit and vegetable growers, dairy and cattle farmers and owners of plant nurseries and vineyards have begun lobbying politicians at home and in Washington to get them to deal with immigration in a way that minimizes the harm to their livelihoods.

Some of the farm leaders are Republicans who voted for Trump and are torn, wanting border security but also mercy toward laborers who are not dangerous criminals.

Farming uses a higher percentage of illegal labor than any other U.S. industry, according to a Pew Research Center study.

Immigrants working illegally in this country accounted for about 46 percent of America’s roughly 800,000 crop farmworkers in recent years, according to an Associated Press analysis of data from the U.S. Departments of Labor and Agriculture.

By ANDREW SELSKY for US News
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