Feinstein Up to Old Tricks; Asks DHS Not to Deport Farm Workers

Recently, Senator Dianne Feinstein asked the Department of Homeland Security to stop deporting illegal farm workers. Feinstein said that she wants the White House’s executive order not deport illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children expanded to include farm workers. In Feinstein’s letter to DHS, she wrote that many California farmers and growers informed her that their businesses and livelihoods are “at risk” because of a shortage of legal harvesters, pickers, pruners, packers, and farm workers.


For nearly 20 years, Feinstein has been making the same dire prediction that California’s economy would crash unless the numbers of immigrant farm workers increased. In 2008, Feinstein declared the so called shortage “an emergency” and predicted that without more immigrant workers, California would lose $3.1 billion over the short term and more than $4 billion long term.

Neither forecast came true. Instead, the reverse happened. According to a 2011 CNBC investigative analysis written by senior editor John Carney and titled “Why Can’t Farms Find More Workers?” aggregate farm cash income rose from $99 billion in 2010 to $124 billion in 2011. During the same period, growers spent nearly $1 billion less on labor, declining from $23.5 billion to $22.6 billion. These impressive income reports reflect a booming, not a bust, industry.

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During his research, Carney also learned that the “shortage” growers claim isn’t caused by too few workers but too low wages-Chapter 1 from every college freshman’s Introduction to Economics text book. Farm wages aren’t competitive with other low-skilled opportunities.

Carney studied the wage structure at several Los Angeles retail outlets for entry level, no experience required jobs. A cashier at Sam’s Club offered $9.83 per hour; stockroom at Target, $9.60 and a cashier at Bed, Bath and Beyond, $10.06. Unlike farm work, those jobs pay guaranteed wages for indoor work. Naturally, the American worker will prefer indoor employment’s comfort to stoop labor.

All through the two decades that Feinstein has advocated for guest worker programs, she’s co-sponsored multiple bills including her latest with Senators Marco Rubio, Orrin Hatch and Michael Bennet that was included S. 744, the June legislation that passed the Senate. None of Feinstein’s bills have ever become law for the simplest reason: nowhere in the U.S. is there evidence of a farm worker shortage. Over the past Labor Day weekend, millions of Americans had picnics and barbecues. Lettuce, tomatoes, peaches, corn and whatever else the menu included was in bountiful supply and was picked by the existing farm labor.

The agriculture industry’s repeated wolf cries are old and baseless. Not only could it increase its pay scale, but also an unlimited number of ag guest workers can be brought to the U.S. under the Labor Department’s H-2A program. Growers must receive Labor Department certification that (1) not enough U.S. workers are available and (2) the employment of H-2A aliens will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. laborers.

Growers who refuse to take advantage of H-2A claim that it’s cumbersome. The truth is that under H-2A growers would have to pay a competitive wage, something they neither want nor have to do as long as an endless supply of cheap illegal immigrant labor remains available. Unlimited illegal immigration is a policy Feinstein through her non-deportation advocacy endorses.

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