[CONTENT NOTE: worker exploitation and abuse, nativism.]
Whenever immigration policy lands on the front burner we are all treated to “news” stories noting the inevitability of food costs soaring and the nation’s agricultural economy collapsing when undocumented farm workers suddenly become scarce. Here is one such article from The Nation in 2011 reporting on the eminently foreseeable catastrophes after Georgia and Alabama enacted draconian anti-immigrant statutes. Among other shitty fascist provisions, the laws required employers to confirm their worker’s legal status via the federal government’s E-Verify system. Any worker who used false documents to secure a job could be subject to fifteen years in prison and $250,000 in fines.
In perhaps the most utterly predictable chain of events in the universe ever, undocumented farm workers fled Georgia and Alabama in droves, leaving watermelons, peaches, blackberries and cucumbers rotting in the fields and businesses collapsing in their wake. The estimated loss for Georgia’s agricultural sector alone was $1 billion—for one season.
How on Earth could such a senseless situation come to pass? [SPOILER ALERT! Because conservatives.]
How did Georgia come to suffer such a painful, self-inflicted wound? The proximate cause is the intoxicating power of spreading anti-immigrant sentiment, fanned by incendiary Tea Party-style politics, which have found fertile ground throughout much of the South. HB 87 played an important role in Georgia’s gubernatorial election and was strongly supported by the Republican candidate, Nathan Deal; as Georgia’s new governor, he proudly signed HB 87 into law. Many Georgia farmers supported the law as well. Sixth-generation blackberry farmer Gary Paulk was chair of Deal’s gubernatorial campaign in Irwin County, next door to Tifton [Georgia]. He told Time magazine in June that he stood to lose $250,000 for the summer because of the labor shortage, adding, with no apparent self-awareness, that he finds the law “appalling, because they didn’t think through the implications, at the farm level.”
So just to recap: some right-wing asshole campaigned for governor of Georgia on a nasty piece of predictably disastrous anti-immigrant legislation. Once elected he “proudly” signed it into law. Unfortunately for these bozos—including the county chair of the governor’s campaign who is himself a sixth-generation blackberry farmer—”they didn’t think through the implications.” O.o
I wrote about these doucheweasels at the time:
Mr. T. Bagger and his merry band of mooks, of course, are always all a-twitter about reducing the size and reach of the federal government, reducing the debt and the deficit, and ranting against any and all regulation of businesses. And yet, they “proudly” support a law:
- requiring businesses to verify every single employee’s immigration status on a database run by the federal Homeland Security and Social Security Administrations (which, incidentally, they want to abolish); and
- requiring the state to imprison, feed, and provide medical care—for fifteen years—to any worker found guilty of falsifying documents to obtain a brutal, poorly paid job.
So principle. Much logics. Wow.
Which brings us to this recent “news” article in The Washington Post:
You could soon pay more money for worse food. Thanks, Donald Trump.
President-elect Donald Trump has promised a major crackdown on illegal immigration, triggering immense alarm among the country’s 11 million undocumented people. But Trump’s deportation promises, if fulfilled, would ripple far beyond the lives of illegal immigrants. Deportations would affect vast swaths of the economy — with a particularly dramatic impact on agriculture.
As a result, Americans could see the cost of some fruits and vegetables soar.
Undocumented workers account for 67 percent of people harvesting fruit, according to the Agriculture Department. They make up 61 percent of all employees on vegetable farms, and as many as half of all workers picking crops. Agricultural economists across the political spectrum say that there’s no way that workforce could be raptured up* without reverberations throughout the food system — think farm bankruptcies, labor shortages and an eventual contraction of the broader economy. And even if you’re far from the agriculture industry, you could see $4 milk, low-quality oranges, and extortionately priced raspberries.
Whichever way you slice it, farmers pay more to produce less — which could squeeze the budgets of the very Americans who supported Trump’s immigration message.
GTFO. Who could have possibly predicted this? NO ONE THAT’S WHO.
To many of them, mass deportation sounded attractive in the abstract. But practically speaking, the economy is so complex — and so interdependent — that Trump could not possibly deport the country’s 11 million undocumented people without also impacting middle-Americans’ wallets.
In fact, to keep costs under control, Americans may end up being forced to buy more groceries from abroad, undermining Trump’s effort to boost American industry.
My. God. Did no one think through the implications (again)?
Naturally, in the Post article short shrift is given to the hellish conditions under which migrant farm workers typically toil. This is hardly surprising—after all, what’s really important here is the increased cost of breakfast for the Post‘s affluent readers. What is surprising is the Post reporters’ embarrassing failure to mention the blazingly obvious solution to the impending farm labor crisis, one that our new Sexual Predator-in-Chief has clearly had in mind all along: the deportation of 11 million undocumented immigrants is nothing short of a massive job creation program. Yes, despite the Liberal Media™’s poo-pooing and futile “fact” checking, all of those lofty promises the president-elect made to rust belt and manufacturing sector voters about bringing back jobs for them are about to come true!
Now I can see where some people (*eyeroll*) might have objections to replacing all of the immigrant farm laborers in the US with Trump voters. But upon closer analysis, all of these problems have sensible solutions. For example, it may be true that the vast majority of Trump voters have no farming skills to speak of. No worries! They can learn on the job, like unpaid interns or something! And of course they would all have to relocate to the farms, at least seasonally, and at their own expense, just like the immigrant workers do now. But just ask yourself: how hard can it be, if millions of impoverished, undocumented people who don’t even speak English do it every single year?
It is also true that these millions of migrant Trump voters will probably be subjected to the same nightmarish housing conditions, sexual abuse, rampant wage theft and pesticide poisoning that undocumented workers currently endure with very little recourse. And sadly, Trump voters too might die in the fields for lack of access to drinking water. Pfffft, I say. It’s about goddamn time white supremacists step up and prove to everyone once and for all just how superior they truly are. You can do this, authoritarian bigots! I’m rooting for ya!
And hey, it’s not like it’s all bad news for the millions of soon-to-be-deported farm workers either. As one immigrant at a North Carolina tobacco farm put it, “Back in Mexico, we have bathrooms inside the house. We come to the United States and we have to go outside.” Indoor toilets FTW, amirite?
I don’t know about you, but I for one will never again underestimate the forward-thinking wisdom of Donald Trump and his voters. Unlike those Republican officials in Georgia and Alabama, these people have surely thought through the implications. Pure genius.
*”Raptured up”? Is this really A Thing now? Just another everyday expression one might casually substitute for “hoovered” or something, only better because it legitimizes apocalyptic religious fantasies? Jeezus Fucking Christ. (<-Hahaha. Like, literally.)