Some fear new immigration policy will lead to shortage of migrant workers

Global Business

Some California farmers fear that a temporary measure announced last November by President Barack Obama, that allows some migrant workers to gain legal status, will lead to a labor shortage. The state is the fifth-largest producer of food and agricultural products in the world, and relies on hundreds of thousands of migrant workers, many of them undocumented immigrants. CCTV America’s May Lee reported this story from Cochella Valley, California.

Some fear new immigration policy will lead to shortage of migrant workers

Some fear new immigration policy will lead to shortage of migrant workers

Some California farmers fear that a temporary measure announced last November by President Barack Obama, that allows some migrant workers to gain legal status, will lead to a labor shortage. The state is the fifth-largest producer of food and agricultural products in the world, and relies on hundreds of thousands of migrant workers, many of them undocumented immigrants. CCTV America’s May Lee reported this story from Cochella Valley, California.

Ramona Felix has worked in the fields of Cochella Valley as an undocumented worker for 15 years. The work, she said, is back breaking.

“When I started picking lemons, it was so heavy to carry the sack around my neck. I had to dump them in a box, but my first day I remember I couldn’t fill the box because the lemons were so heavy. I went home so discouraged because the pay was $25 per box and I couldn’t even fill one,” Felix said.

She suffered in silence for fear of deportation since she was working illegally in the U.S. like so many of 400,000 farm workers in California.

But the future may be brighter due to Obama’s temporary executive order that blocks the deportation of five million undocumented immigrants. To qualify, workers must have lived in the U.S. for five years, or have children who are U.S. citizens.

California farmers fear there will be an exodus of migrant workers who want more stable year round jobs, which they said will affect the state’s $47 billion agricultural industry.

“There’s been a low-grade fear for a long time because every season there’s a struggle to get the work force they need. Every season, they’re working harder and harder just to get the work force they need to harvest the crops,” Jason Resnick, vice president and general counsel of Western Growers said.

But advocates of migrant workers dispute claims that there will be a labor shortage.

“We haven’t seen much evidence that agricultural employers have competed for workers by improving wages and working conditions. Wages haven’t really gone up very much in the last decade for agricultural workers. Very few farmers get benefits like paid sick leave, or paid vacation or health insurance,” Bruce Goldstein, president of Farmworker Justice said.