agriculture

Washington Post: Farm Industry Is Being Forced to Replace Illegal Workforce

Excerpts:

The paper [Washington Post] reported February 21:

... With the election of Trump, employers said they knew that finding undocumented workers would probably become even more difficult. One Washington state farmer said he watched as his entire pool of undocumented workers crossed the border into Canada after Trump’s inauguration, fearing deportation. Another farmer, failing to find domestic workers in 2017, formed a partnership with a local prison, hiring detainees to work the fields as part of a voluntary work program.

Farm companies are importing more temporary visa workers via the H-2A program. In 2016, farm companies hired 165,000 temporary workers via the H2A program. In 2018, the number rose to 242,000 H-2A workers, who are expected to return home after 10 months of work.

Apple farms in Oregon are also looking to machines to curb their reliance on migrants to pick the most profitable fruit:  [photo]

The two articles in the Washington Post are notable because they recognize the impact of cheap-labor migration on U.S. technology and economics.

Most articles by establishment media outlets focus on the demands of U.S. employers and of foreign migrants and ignore the deeply damaging impact illegal and legal migration on Americans’ wages, salaries, productivity, and technological development.

For example, many major U.S. companies ally with foreign outsourcing firms to keep at least 1.5 million foreign college-graduates — including at least 650,000 H-1B workers — in the jobs sought by U.S. college graduates. That business strategy is made possible by government labor policy, and it spikes Wall Street values, shrinks salaries, and steers middle-class Americans away from technology jobs.

Overall, the U.S. agriculture industry is heavily mechanized and automated. High-tech machinery allows farmers and a few workers to plant, help, and harvest vast acreages of row crops, such as wheat, corn, potatoes, carrots, and soybeans. The huge harvests feed Americans and many people abroad.

The U.S. dairy industry is partly automated but lags behind European dairy farms who have shrunk their labor costs by buying cow-milking robots. Dairy farmers are lobbying to be allowed into the H-2A program and complain that government-set milk prices are too low for them to afford the cow-milking robots.

But there is little automation in the business of picking fruit, such as peaches, apples, and strawberries. Cheap illegal labor has allowed farm companies to ignore technology, but that strategy has run into a ditch.

Farms in Mexico and South America are using their expert managers, extra sunshine, and cheaper labor to deliver more food to their countries and to export more food to the U.S., so cutting into U.S. farmers’ share of the U.S. market.

That international competition is also forcing American farms to consider automating their harvests.

The asparagus industry shows the connection between labor costs and automation.

In California and Idaho, asparagus is picked by migrants carrying a long tool. In Michigan, where there are fewer migrants, farms use buggies to help a team of several migrants pick the crop faster. In Europe, where migrants are expensive, companies are trying to use bigger machines that can pick the asparagus crop with few workers.

As California’s labor shortage grows, farmers race to replace workers with robots

Driscoll’s is so secretive about its robotic strawberry picker it won’t let photographers within telephoto range of it.

But if you do get a peek, you won’t see anything humanoid or space-aged. AgroBot is still more John Deere than C-3PO...

Now, the $47-billion agriculture industry is trying to bring technological innovation up to warp speed before it runs out of low-wage immigrant workers.

California will have to remake its fields like it did its factories, with more machines and better-educated workers to labor beside them, or risk losing entire crops, economists say.

“California agriculture just isn’t going to look the same,” said Ed Taylor, a UC Davis rural economist....

Driscoll’s, which grows berries in nearly two dozen countries and is the world’s top berry grower, already is moving its berries to table-top troughs, where they are easier for both human and machines to pick, as it has done over the last decade in Australia and Europe.

“We don’t see — no matter what happens — that the labor problem will be solved,” said Soren Bjorn, president of Driscoll’s of the Americas.

That’s because immigrant farmworkers in California’s agricultural heartlands are getting older and not being replaced. After decades of crackdowns, the net flow across the U.S.-Mexico border reversed in 2005, a trend that accelerated through 2014, according to a Pew Research Center study. And native-born Americans aren’t interested in the job, even at wages that have soared at higher than average rates.

“We’ve been masking this problem all these years with a system that basically allowed you to accept fraudulent documents as legal, and that’s what has been keeping this workforce going,” said Steve Scaroni, whose Fresh Harvest company is among the biggest recruiters of farm labor. “And now we find out we don’t have much of a labor force up here, at least a legal one.

Stated bluntly, there aren’t enough new immigrants for the state’s nearly half-million farm labor jobs — especially as Mexico creates competing manufacturing jobs in its own cities, Taylor said....

Not surprisingly, wages for crop production have climbed 13% from 2010 to 2015 — a higher rate than the state average, according to a Los Angeles Times analysis of Labor Department data.

Growers who can afford it have begun offering savings and health plans more commonly found in white collar jobs. And they’re increasingly turning to foreign guest workers, recruiting 11,000 last year, which is a fivefold jump in just five years, The Times found.

None of that will solve the problem, economists say. Changing what we grow and how we grow it is all that’s left.

Response has been uneven, at best. Vast areas of the Central Valley have switched from labor intensive crops such as grapes or vegetables to almonds, which are mechanically shaken from the tree. The high-value wine grape industry has re-engineered the bulk of its vineyards to allow machines to span the vines like a monorail and strip them of grape clusters or leaves.

Fresno’s raisin industry, however, has a tougher problem to solve on a tighter profit margin. To fully mechanize, it may have to change not just its vineyard design, but the grape variety itself, much like the tomato industry developed a tough skinned Roma to withstand mechanical harvesters.

When labor shortages and price shocks hit in the early 2000s, growers altered vineyards so that machines could shake partially withered Thompson seedless grapes onto paper trays, a method that can slash more than 80% of labor costs, according to U.C. Davis researchers....

It may be too late to mechanize asparagus. The crop, among the most labor-intensive in the state, has gradually shifted to Mexico since trade barriers made it cheaper to grow there, casting a nostalgic pall over Stockton’s asparagus festival.

Last year, farmers in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta area harvested only 8,000 acres of the signature spear, which is depicted on water tanks and town emblems throughout the region. In 2000, they harvested 37,000 acres, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“We’re headed toward zero pretty soon,” said Cherie Watte Angulo, executive director of the California Asparagus Commission....

Even Driscoll’s AgroBot, among the more advanced prototypes in California fields, was picking only a bit more than half the ripe berries in its trials this spring in Camarillo.

“We think we are very close, but every day we try to make the next step. We see new things we need to solve,” said Juan Bravo, the Spanish inventor who is counting on Driscoll’s continued backing for his 10-year endeavor...

The rest of the fruit industry has its eye on AgroBot’s trials, even as it looks to other start-ups such as Abundant Robotics, which hopes to duplicate the dexterity, judgment and perception of human apple pickers. Soft Robotics, based in Cambridge, Mass., boasts that its graspers can pick up a cupcake without damaging the icing.

Frank Maconachy is skeptical of solutions imported from tech centers. His company, Ramsay Highlander, started as a greasy machine shop in the Salinas Valley and slowly migrated toward Silicon Valley instead.

The company, with $15 million in annual sales, builds a fleet of computerized and sensor-driven machines for the lettuce and produce industry — and he is working with AgroBot’s U.S. competitor for strawberry picking, Harvest Croo, based in Plant City, Fla.

An early generation of robotic machine uses a band saw to mow whole rows of baby lettuce and other greens. But when produce giant Taylor Farms tried it on romaine heads, a slight height variation in the beds put the saw right across the heart of the heads, leaving nothing but shredded leaves, Maconachy said.

Maconachy developed a cutter using high-speed water jets. It now cuts all the romaine heads cleanly, and can be adapted for cabbage and celery.

“That machine took the work of 30 people and brought it down to about 12 people,” Maconachy said.

Cutting iceberg heads, especially large ones, remains problematic — it is planted so densely and the heads are so heavy it is difficult to maneuver cutters and graspers into beds. Maconachy thinks he has that engineering problem solved, but can’t raise the capital to develop it.

Ironically, plant scientists may have to reverse their cross-breeding to the original “iceberg” head, nicknamed from the tons of ice it took to keep it cool for cross-country train trips.

The crisphead variety used to be more bulb-shaped, which would give cutters and graspers more room to work, Maconachy said.

Rick Antle, chief executive of Tanimura & Antle, is whittling away at the labor on the planting side. He showed off his own robotic bet, called Planttape. The machine — equally homely as AgroBot — raced down a lettuce field outside Salinas, laying down a long strand of seedlings strung together on a bio-degradable tape, like 9-volt batteries in a 50-caliber machine gun belt.

That was twice the speed of its 35-year-old predecessor, and it required less than a tenth of the labor. To prove his point, Antle ran the old machine, which required three times the workers, on a nearby celery field. “That was it, for 35 years,” Antle said.

Lettuce growers usually plant seed, which can be unreliable, every few inches, then thin the field to fit the maximum number of heads at the optimal spacing. That means scores of workers in the spring have to walk row after row, moving inch by inch to pull seedlings over with a hoe — one of the oldest tools of agriculture.

The computer-guided “See and Spray” machine, developed by Silicon Valley start-up Blue River Technology, can do the work of 20 of those laborers before noon. It is one of five robotic thinners deployed on thousands of acres of summer lettuce in the Salinas Valley.

Diego Alctantar, 25, operated the tractor pulling See and Spray across a recently planted lettuce field near Gilroy. A computer guided jets of fertilizer-infused water to desiccate seedlings according to a kill-or-skip pattern that left nine-inch gaps between heads.

Alcantar, who grew up in the Salinas Valley, thinned lettuce and cut spinach the old way before getting his tractor license a few years ago. “It’s hard labor,” he said. “I have a lot of respect for them.”

The machine is not perfect...

Immigration enforcement boost felt throughout Yakima Valley

In Granger, attorneys with the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project can’t keep up with the number of deportation hearings.

In Yakima, inmates held on suspicion of violating immigration laws have nearly tripled since March.

And across the Yakima Valley, social service agencies report a drop in the number of immigrants seeking help, while crime victims in this country illegally are becoming more reluctant to file complaints.

These are all signs of President Donald Trump’s executive orders stepping up immigration enforcement, said attorney Lara Contreras, who directs the Immigrant Rights Project.

Contreras said her office of three immigration attorneys and two legal advocates can’t keep pace with a growing number of deportation proceedings in Seattle and Tacoma, where a huge backlog has fostered a five-year delay on final rulings.

“There are going to be many people representing themselves in front of an immigration judge,” Contreras said. “We don’t have enough staff to represent everyone facing deportation.”

On a recent morning, a half-dozen people came to the firm’s Granger office seeking advice.

Among them was Yolanda, who feared her 18-year-old son would be targeted for deportation if he applied for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.

“There’s no category of an individual who is exempt from ICE enforcement.”

-Rose Riley, ICE Spokeswoman

A student at Heritage University, he works with his mother in the fields from 3 a.m. to about 3 p.m. before heading to classes at 4 p.m.

But her anxiety was calmed when she was told her son would not be exposed to deportation if he applied for DACA, the Obama administration’s policy that allows certain undocumented people who entered the country as minors to obtain a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation, and eligibility for a work permit.

She said she doesn’t want her son to end up like her, trapped in field work. He’s majoring in business administration with a minor in computer science.

“People are fearful. There are people afraid to gather information regarding their cases,” Contreras said. “People are afraid to go to the police department because they are afraid they’ll get turned over to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement).”

Incarceration

Under a federal contract, the Yakima County jail typically houses 50 to 90 people suspected of being here illegally each month, with the exception of last October when about 150 Haitian refugees were housed here temporarily.

Most of them are brought to the jail from other communities throughout Central Washington, while a small number are identified by ICE after being arrested on local charges. The county receives about $84 a day for each inmate it holds for ICE.

But this year, the jail has seen a steady increase in ICE holds. In March, there were 141 inmates suspected of being here illegally in the jail — a 156 percent increase over the same month last year when 51 such inmates were housed. Numbers in April, May and June were double or nearly triple during the same time last year.

The bigger numbers are the result of Trump’s executive orders, which provide broader guidelines for seeking out undocumented immigrants, said Rose Riley, Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman in Seattle.

And the vetting process has become less selective than in previous years, when ICE officials typically focused on serious criminals, Riley said.

“There’s no category of an individual who is exempt from ICE enforcement,” she said. “If they came into the country illegally or unlawfully, they will be subject to ICE enforcement.”

Under the executive orders, ICE officers don’t hesitate to ask anyone associated with someone who they arrest about their status, she says.

“It’s not dependent on their criminality, but on whether they are here legally or not,” she said.

“There’s definitely an increase,” said Department of Corrections Director Ed Campbell. “We’re seeing folks moved through from other jurisdictions.”

Campbell attributes some of the increases to an overall rise in the jail population, which has shot up from a daily average of 750 to 800 inmates to more than 900.

A clogged court

Last year, 2,124 people — 729 of them charged with a crime other than being here illegally — were removed from the region, which includes Washington, Oregon and Alaska, according to data from the Department of Homeland Security.

This year, the region is on pace to surpass that. Within about a three-month period from Jan. 20 to April 29, a total of 1,070 people were deported, of whom 798 were charged with a crime.

But immigration courts in Seattle and Tacoma, where the region’s cases are heard, had more than 9,470 pending cases as of March 27.

Of those, 982 are in the Tacoma court, which hears cases of those incarcerated.

Nationwide, there are 598,943 pending cases, of which 24,431 involve people convicted of crimes other than being in the country illegally.

Many cases are being delayed for months with their final hearings pushed out five years, Contreras said.

Those delays have some willing to waive due process to avoid being detained during the proceedings, said Maru Mora with Latino Advocacy in Bellingham, which works with groups across the state on immigrant rights and advocacy.

“In some cases people are just saying ‘look, if you’re going to deport me, just go ahead and deport me,’ ” she said.

More than 90 percent of those detained in Tacoma do not have attorneys and many have limited or no access to legal libraries to prepare their cases, Mora said.

Many have been moved to a county jail in northern Oregon where a legal library isn’t offered nor any facility to work on cases, she said.

And those detained in Tacoma only get one hour a day in the legal library, Mora said.

“So when they come back to court they’re not prepared for their hearing,” she said.

“The huge backlog, it’s impossible to get a lawyer; it’s expensive, and you’re transferred to a county jail.”

Meanwhile, social service providers have seen dramatic dips in people seeking services.

In May, the YWCA reported huge declines in women seeking emergency shelter, with only 28 compared to the 140 woman and 158 children the agency helped the year before.

Catholic Charities of Yakima, which provides an array of social services including low-income farm worker housing, said it saw a similar dip in people seeking services early in the year, but now people are coming in again.

“When we see a dip, usually it’s attributed to ICE activity in the area,” said CEO Manual Villafan. “That keeps them from accessing services our organization provides.”

Contreras said victims of crimes are reluctant to come forward as witnesses or seek protection orders.

“They fear that an ICE officer is lurking by,” she said.

Let's Start Debunking Immigration Myths

There are common sense, fact-based ways to fix immigration in U.S.

Taxpayers are subsidizing big business and a desire for cheap labor at a massive cost to society.

HOLDEN — Our media is inundated with political narrative, misinformation and myths on immigration. A few examples:

 Reducing immigration is “anti-immigrant” and “right-wing.”

 Only Trumpites oppose sanctuary cities.

Last October, the Obama Justice Department announced that cities would receive federal law enforcement grants only if they fully complied with federal immigration reporting laws. The current administration is continuing this policy. In addition, 80 percent of Americans oppose sanctuary policies, and even in hyper-blue California, a majority felt that cities should not be allowed to refuse to cooperate with federal authorities.

 Immigrants pay taxes.

The National Academy of Sciences was clear: Immigrants are currently a huge fiscal drain. In 2013, the fiscal deficit – taxes paid minus services used – was $279 billion. But why? They work hard. Their wages are low because most are unskilled. Bottom line: Taxpayers are subsidizing cheap labor for the employers.

• If illegal immigrants left, our produce would rot in the fields.

Alabama’s agricultural output rose in the three years after passage of its “draconian” immigration law. In addition, the H2A visa program, which allows farmers to employ foreign guest workers, has no caps. There’s no excuse for any illegal workers picking our produce.

• We need immigrants to “do the jobs Americans won’t do.”

Nobel economist Paul Krugman: “The willingness of Americans to do a job depends on how much that job pays – and the reason some jobs pay too little to attract native-born Americans is competition from poorly paid immigrants.” When garlic famers couldn’t find enough workers, they recently increased wages by $2 an hour, and were flooded with applicants. Surprise! Americans picking produce!

• If we pay more, food prices will skyrocket.

Philip Martin, of the Commission on Agricultural Workers, reports that raising farmworkers’ wages by 40 percent would increase a family’s annual food budget by only $16. By hiring legal workers and paying a livable wage, we save taxpayers the cost of poverty programs, and government gets more taxes.

• We need high-skilled foreign science, technology, engineering and math workers.

The Wall Street Journal: “America’s dazzling tech boom has a downside: Not enough jobs.” And The New York Times: Corporations, claiming dire shortages, are displacing Americans with foreign workers. “STEM shortages”?

• We’re caught between “mass deportations” and “mass amnesty.”

We have other choices. Passing mandatory E-verify for all new hires would immediately end the jobs magnet. Over five years, we could phase in E-verify for all workers. A five-year transition period would allow employers now dependent on an illegal workforce to rethink their business plan, and it would allow illegal immigrants time to make other arrangements.

 Families could be divided!

It’s not our responsibility to provide amnesty and citizenship to people who’ve committed Social Security card fraud and identity theft and lied on federal documents in order to “make a better life.” If native-born Americans commit these crimes, they face jail time.

• What about “Dreamers,” brought here as children? They’re innocent.

Legalization without citizenship for a limited number of highly deserving Dreamers makes sense. But their plight shouldn’t become a Trojan horse for another mass amnesty.

• We need more young people!

Since immigrants sponsor their elderly parents, too, immigration has no discernible effect on generational demographics, according to the pro-restriction Center for Immigration Studies.

• President Barack Obama deported millions. Illegal immigration is simply unstoppable.

The Los Angeles Times: The Obama administration changed the definition of “deportation.” Citing that fact, Obama himself called his deportation statistics “a little deceptive.” Using the old definition, deportations declined by 40 percent under Obama.

How can we stop illegal immigration? It’s obvious: Go after the employers. Decisive enforcement. No more “catch and release.” Immigration policy will affect nearly every aspect of our society for generations. Let’s try applying a fact-based discussion to this complex problem.

Jonette Christian of Holden is a member of Mainers for Sensible Immigration Policy. She can be contacted at jonettechristian@ rocketmail.com.

Skewed perspective doesn't tell the whole story

It seems that reporter April Ehrlich might be a bit off center in Worker shortage coincides with immigration decline in her article published in the Argus Observer.

First of all, and not mentioned in the article is that Oregon law that makes it illegal for anyone under the age of 16 to work in the fields like many of us remember doing.  We worked to earn money for school clothes, rides at the State Fair or saving for college.  It was hot, dirty and most important, a valuable life lesson that I still treasure.

The reporter states that nationwide only 26% of ag workers are illegal aliens.  That means that the remainder are US citizens or approved VISA workers who are willing to do the work.

Perhaps even more disturbing is the false wailing that illegal alien laborers only take the jobs Americans won't do - like picking our fruit and vegetables or working in the fields.  The fact is, numerous studies show that less than 5% of laborers in the US illegally, are actually working in the fields.  They, like most workers, want better jobs and move easily on to employment in construction, drywall, hotels and restaurants etc., pushing American workers and legal immigrants out of those very jobs.

The successful acquisition of employees can be described quite simply. 

Adequate, competitive wages for the work being done, safe, decent working conditions, attractive benefits and, as most industrialized nations do, mechanize when possible to streamline and reduce the tedious, dirty jobs often associated with farm or factory work.

The alternative, which is practiced by many seeking to avoid the above, is to hire illegal labor.  The fact is that it's against Federal Law to hire workers that are in the country illegally. There are VISA's available for ag labor, if only employers would do the paper work and be responsible.  But, that's too much work and expense, apparently, when they can more easily hire illegal workers.  After all, there are no real consequences for hiring illegal aliens - right?

Instead, those working here illegally are more easily cheated and abused as employees.  Those working here illegally are often being paid under the table, or using a fake or stolen ID to get a job.  Employers know they are hiring illegal workers, they know they are breaking the law and they know that it's likely an illegal alien worker won't complain about long hours, no breaks, unsafe working conditions or worse.

What kind of business model is this for the United States?  We aren't some 3rd world country taking advantage of the poor with no other options - or, are we?

Why don't we have a real conversation about what needs to be done to make Oregon's farmers more competitive in world markets in a way that does not involve encouraging more illegal aliens to come here for those jobs.  Why don't we invest in research to improve mechanization to make our farmers more competitive?  I think we're smart enough to do that - don't you?

Rep. Vic Gilliam gets it wrong - again!

Representative Vic Gilliam, who spear-headed the failed attempt to put driver licenses in the hands of people in our country illegally, is at it again.

Flagrant remarks about the intentions of a well respected grassroots organization, of which I am President, is a thinly veiled attempt to discredit the work we have done and the intentions of our group going forward. 

In fact, he goes so far as to imply that OFIR is racist for wanting our immigration laws enforced and to have the needs of American citizens come first.

Rep. Gilliam, an elected official sworn to uphold the laws of this country, seems to think it's better to embrace the needs of those that willingly disregard our laws by coming here illegally, working here illegally and often using a stolen identity or social security number to do so, whose children overwhelm our schools, who often steal jobs away from low skill, entry level, legal workers (especially minorites), whose cars overwhelm our roads and whose increasing numbers threaten our natural environment. 

Rep. Gilliam stated, "Largely as a result of a failed federal immigration policy, we have undocumented workers in our state who are proven hard-working citizens and trusted friends."  Undocumented workers are now citizens according to Gilliam?   Gilliam is a State Representative?  At one time we used to be a nation that respected the “rule of law.”

I've got news for you Vic, our immigration policy is not failed - it's simply not enforced!  Elected officials like you have compounded the problems.  I don't blame those that take advantage of our lack of enforcement - I blame our elected officials that pick and choose which laws to enforce and which laws are not as convenient for them and their deep pocketed donors.

Once again, I think you're on the wrong side of the issue.  Clearly, you ignored your constituents thoughts on the issue  regarding driver licenses for illegal aliens when 18,282 of your constituents voted NO and only 5,571 voted YES.

You are elected to protect and serve your constituents, not foreign nationals illegally present in our country.

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Immigration reform, not discrimination, is needed

By:
Vic Gilliam
Woodburn Independent
2016-01-27

 

A simplistic view of immigration can be tempting given decades of federal mismanagement of our borders as well as grave concerns for our safety in light of growing international terrorism.

Some essentially declare in frustration: “Let’s seal our borders, force everyone to speak English and round up the ‘illegals’ and ship ‘em home!”

Racism is an evil human tendency, which I must resist. It can be as blatant as slavery. It can also creep up on a society or into one’s heart under the cover of fear.

Fellow lawmakers, some of whom I know well and respect, have announced their intention to promote so called “immigration reform” policies. I disagree with their approach and will vigorously oppose their efforts.

Taking the failures of this White House (and several previous ones) out on our neighbors and friends in Oregon is hardly the way to fix a global problem. I agree, we have an American culture and traditions that are memorable and worthy of respect. Hallmarks range from the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor, to Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. From Mark Hatfield’s success in restoring every Oregon Native-American tribe’s rights, to Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream,” we cherish landmarks in this great American melting pot.

Vigorous debate is fundamental to our republic. I repeat that many of legislators supporting these measures are honorable leaders and friends of mine. Yet, there are numerous reasons for opposing their proposal. And there is a fundamental flaw in their strategy.

The individuals and organization that have again masterminded and promoted these objectionable proposals, sadly have a reputation of racism. There are consistent and vigorous claims of non-discrimination but when considering the literature, rhetoric and track record of Oregonians For Immigration Reform, I’m reminded of Shakespeare’s phrase: “Methinks thou doth protest too much.”

Their spokesman was quoted this way: “They’re dividing the fabric of the community by not learning to speak English. … We’re not discriminating against any particular group. We just feel learning English would be important if you want to become a citizen.”

A common language for communication is an admirable goal. But why not promote English, bilingual education and additional language skills in our schools? Additionally, why not encourage adult education venues to address language and cultural differences and promote understanding and unity?

Largely as a result of a failed federal immigration policy, we have undocumented workers in our state who are proven hard-working citizens and trusted friends. If you choose to ignore the reality of generations of immigrants who are valued members of our community and economy, then who is really dividing the fabric of Oregon with frustrated misdirected policies at the state level?

I support a new focus on future federal standards of border safety. I will oppose clandestine discrimination cloaked in “immigration reform” that will make life more difficult for Oregon families with rich histories here and abroad. Let’s unite and raise the local bar of tolerance and understanding that results in a safer and stronger Oregon.

Vic Gilliam is state representative for House District 18, which spans from Aurora to Silverton.

http://portlandtribune.com/wbi/153-opinion/290522-167943-immigration-ref...

$10,000 grant awarded to PCUN Farmworker Service Center

Money will help establish center's first-ever formal training program for staff and volunteers

PCUN’s Farmworker Service Center received a $10,000 grant from the Oregon Community Foundation last year, which the Woodburn-based nonprofit and farmworkers union plans to use to strengthen services and develop a formal orientation and training program.

Jaime Arredondo, secretary-treasurer for PCUN (Northwest Treeplanters and Farmworkers United), said that though the Farmworker Service Center has been providing accredited immigration law services to its clients for over 30 years, it has never had a formal training program for its employees, volunteers or interns.

“They have some pieces, but not something comprehensive,” he said.

The center provides a variety of services to PCUN members, including legal representation for a number of different immigration matters, referral services, verbal and written translations, public notary services and a death benefit.

“These services are vital because they provide an entry point to better economic and health stability for Oregon’s most vulnerable workforce,” Arredondo said.

Arredondo said the center already serves well over 1,000 people each year, and the demand is expected to keep growing, especially if there is an extension of immigration relief or reform in the future.

“(That) would put the FSC in a challenging place to meet the demand,” he said. “We need to be able to scale up quicker. The training program would allow the FSC to do this.”

The Willamette Valley Law Project was the center’s fiscal sponsor for the grant, since PCUN is a 501(c)(5) nonprofit, and a 501(c)(3) was needed to apply for these particular grants.

The award was part of 22 grants the OCF handed out in November 2015, totalling more than $443,000, to northern Willamette Valley nonprofits. The foundation awarded a total of over $8.4 million state-wide.

For more information about PCUN and the Farmworker Service Center, visit www.pcun.org/pcun-service-center. For full lists of grants awarded around the state and more information about OCF initiatives, visit www.oregoncf.org.
 

Washington State Fruit Grower Hit With $2.25 Million Immigration Fine

Broetje Orchards of Washington, one of the country’s largest apple growers, has agreed to pay a $2.25 million fine for hiring illegal immigrants. The fine is one of the largest ever levied against an agricultural concern, according to government officials who announced it Thursday.

A spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement said that the civil penalty was levied against Broetje for employing nearly 950 people who weren’t authorized to work in the U.S...

“All businesses are expected to comply with the law and to ensure the information provided on a form I-9 (employment form) is accurate,” said ICE Director Sarah R. Saldaña.

...acknowledges auditors found that it continued to employ unauthorized workers after being advised by ICE those employees didn’t have permission to work in the U.S.

Broetje is the largest employer in Walla Walla County in Eastern Washington. It has more than 1,000 permanent employees and up to 2,800 during harvest season. Many of them live on the company’s vast grounds in Prescott, Wash., where the grower built housing, school and a day care center for workers.

When the concern first came under scrutiny years ago, it already had begun to train and employ low-skilled workers in the U.S. legally, many of them refugees from Africa and Asia. But its founders, Ralph and Cheryl Broetje, said in an interview at the time that agriculture suffered from a severe labor shortage and that they hoped an overhaul of the country’s immigration system would enable their business to retain experienced workers.

They declined to comment Thursday. But a statement attributed to company management said: “We are pleased to put this process behind us and to get back the business of growing fruit. It said the case ”highlights what is clearly a dysfunctional and broken immigration system.”
 

The Obama Engineered Immigration Meltdown (and Why Securing the Border is a Red Herring)

No discussion of immigration reform in Washington gets very far without some politician boldly declaring, “The first thing we must do is secure the border,” as if that were a novel idea and panacea for illegal immigration.

Once and for all: The border is a red herring. It’s not our border that’s out of control; it’s the Obama administration that’s out of control and the border is just one of many casualties in the president’s assault on immigration enforcement.

What we have on our hands is an immigration meltdown engineered by the president and his political appointees. Our immigration courts have ceased to function, and virtually every illegal alien has been exempted from removal, even if they were operating. Work permits are being handed out to illegal aliens like lollipops on Halloween – about 5.5 million since Obama came to office in 2009.

Of course our borders out of control!

In recent days, the Department of Justice announced that because immigration courts are so overwhelmed, most people with cases pending will not have them heard until 2019 at the earliest. These courts are not overwhelmed because they’re busy deporting so many people who shouldn’t be here. Rather, they are overwhelmed by the number of people who have no business here seeking legalization and the tens of thousands of Central Americans who surged across the border last summer.

In reporting the story, AP cited as a “victim” of the delay the story of Maximiano Vazquez-Guevarra, an illegal alien from Mexico who recently won his appeal to become a legal permanent resident, but needs to make one more court appearance to make it final. Vasquez managed to tie up the courts for three years successfully fighting deportation (and gaining legal status) after coming to the attention of authorities when he was charged with his second DUI.

While the courts have ceased to function because, under the Obama administration, illegal aliens can spend years petitioning for legal residency because they get caught driving while intoxicated (and win), millions more are being given work permits because…well, because the administration just feels like it.

According to a new report by the Center for Immigration Studies, the Obama administration has been ignoring statutorily mandated limits on immigration (big shocker) and handing out Employment Authorization Documents (EADs) at will. Since 2009, 1.2 million people who were admitted on temporary visas that explicitly bar them from working got – you guessed it – EADs. Almost a million illegal aliens also received work authorization, despite the inconvenient law that bars them from being employed in the U.S. Another 1.7 million EADs were parceled out to folks whose status in this country was unclear. But, what the heck, the administration has no interest in finding out and no intention of doing anything about it anyway.

And all this is before they have even begun carrying out the president’s massive executive amnesty, which could grant give legal status and EADs to an additional 5 million illegal aliens, which is likely to trigger an even greater surge of illegal immigration.

First let’s secure the border? No, first we have to stop the president from rendering our entire immigration law meaningless.
 

Measure 88 hurts Oregon's unemployed

Campaigns are often won or lost based on slogans or a clever turn of a phrase.  But, the cold hard facts are often hard to "market" to the casual voter.

Read here the David Cross article posted on OregonLive.com regarding the impact of illegal immigration on Oregon's unemployed and how Ballot Measure 88 compounds the problem.

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