The very south western portion of Arizona and the south eastern portion of California have a lot in common. The area is the largest producer of winter vegetables in the world and provides over 90% of the winter vegetables eaten in the United States. One other thing they share is that almost all of the work is done by migrant Hispanics. I have no way of knowing who is here legally and who is not, but I do know that many of them cross the border legally everyday to come to work.
Something else I know is that there aren't enough people to work the fields. This area (and many others) have actually had to cut back on the number of acres planted at any given time because of manpower shortages. The local folks don't want to do it, the non-Hispanics don't want to do it and there just aren't any white migrant workers any more.
Yuma is so close to the border that it seems to have fewer manpower problems than agricultural areas in other parts of the country. Based on what I've seen, read and heard, the migrants here usually fall into one of four categories.
- Illegal workers who have a pass to cross the border for shopping, visiting relatives, medical care, etc. They are here legally, but they are prohibited from working here.
- Workers who have snuck* into the country and are totally illegal and undocumented.
- Documented workers who are usually middle aged, legally in the U.S. and work in the fields for a living. The children of these folks, just like most other Americans, have exactly ZERO desire to work in the fields like their parents.
- Legal workers who have obtained a work visa to temporarily work in this country. These workers are bound to the company who petitioned the government for temporary help.
Oh yeah, these folks don't just work, they bust their humps every day in brutal conditions. Long hours, low pay, pesticides, various other chemicals, back breaking work and the realization that they are at the absolute bottom of the economic totem pole in a multi-billion dollar industry.
At first glance it looks like the company at least gives them some shade to work in, but It isn't exactly what it looks like. That contraption giving them some shade (if they're lucky) is MOVING and it doesn't stop. I've worked a lot of jobs in my life. Many of them involved VERY hard work. I've spent a lot of time watching these folks and there are middle aged ladies in this group who could work me into the ground on my best day.
The thing that struck me the most (and not in a good way) is that the unemployment percentage in the Yuma area is almost 30%! It doesn't make a lot of sense to me that they don't require some of the recipients of unemployment benefits to take those jobs. I especially don't understand it when I think about the Arizona state stance on the subject. I've heard people say more than a few times, that "those people are taking our jobs!" Maybe it's just me, but I've NEVER heard any parents that I know say, "I sure hope Junior grows up to be a field worker." I'm not trying to make a political statement here, but I live in southern California and as you know I spend a lot of time traveling around the southwestern part of the country. In most of these areas; if all the illegal/undocumented immigrants (from Mexico alone) were sent packing. Our economy would grind to an immediate halt. The state of Arizona estimates that about 10% of their TOTAL workforce is made up of illegal aliens. Some folks there are also quick to point out that the percentage of unemployed Arizonan citizens is about 9% and simply removing the illegals would solve the unemployment problem. Seriously?
Just one more little issue that bugs me. At one time, this house belonged to a farm owner. This sight can be seen all over our country. Do you think the huge corporate farms that either bought, or forced out the small farmers have even the slightest problem hiring illegal immigrants who go there for work? I don't think they care in the slightest. I'm sure that some of them would probably like to import Chinese slave labor and make even larger profits.
I'm not sure if I've ever ventured into political waters before on this blog and I don't mean to do so now. I KNOW there are huge problems with our immigration policies and enforcement, but I don't think either political party in this country really and truly even thinks it's a problem. If it was, they would have fixed it years ago. Most of these folks come here for some of the same reasons our ancestors did. It's the land of opportunity. Most of them are dedicated family folks, who just want their families to survive. If you've ever been to Mexico, you know what I'm talking about. Poor, totally corrupt and full of people that are desperately poor.
*"Snuck." I know this is one of those modern day words that has made it's way into our dictionaries and many folks shiver every time they see it in a sentence. It's kind of like starting a sentence with a conjunction. Things have changed...