Growing Human Misery on American Farms

Published on June 23rd, 2011

One of the most common accusations made by advocates for open borders and sweeping amnesty programs for the unknown millions of illegal aliens present in our country is that those of us who demand that our nation secure our borders against unlawful entry of aliens and create an immigration system with real integrity – a system that can only be achieved by effectively enforcing the immigration laws – are “anti-immigrant” and bigots. It has been said that when an attorney is in court and weak on the facts and strong on the law, he pounds the law. When he is weak on the law and strong on the facts, he pounds the facts.  When he is weak on both law and facts, he pounds the table! These scurrilous accusations made by open borders advocates show just how weak they are on the facts, the law, commonsense and, indeed, decency and morality! Recently “Planet Green” of the Discovery Channel posted a summarization of a book that exposed the truth about the horrific conditions under which illegal aliens work and live on tomato farms in the United States. The book is “Tomatoland,” and “Planet Green” noted that an excerpt from the book had recently appeared in The Atlantic. It is important that you check out these articles and understand the way that unscrupulous employers, such as the tomato farm owners that were the focus of these articles, treat these desperate, vulnerable human beings. When these illegal aliens attempt to escape the extreme squalor and horrific conditions, they are chased down and beaten. They become indentured servants on farms inside the United States of America. In discussing the abject squalor under which these farm workers live, reportedly urinating and defecating in the land adjacent to the farms on which they toil, you realize how this sets the stage for the diseases that result in foodborne illnesses being transmitted to unsuspecting consumers who buy the tomatoes that bear the proud label, “Grown in the United States!” If you treated a dog the way that these illegal aliens are treated you would likely be arrested and prosecuted for animal cruelty! Meanwhile, it is not only the illegal aliens who suffer; we are all suffering because the abject squalor in which illegal aliens live and work is likely a major reason why there are increasing instances of outbreaks of all sorts of foodborne illnesses that sicken so many of us and, in some instances, cause the deaths of our citizens. The only reason that these unscrupulous employers are able to get away with these atrocities is that the people who work for them are desperate and vulnerable to exploitation. This is a very bad place to be! These illegal aliens are trapped in lives that are veritable living hells! Of course the open borders advocates will tell you that what is necessary is a sweeping legalization program that would provide these illegal aliens with lawful status and a pathway to United States citizenship. If these farm workers were not illegal they would be willing to go to the authorities to complain about the conditions under which they are working. Here is the reality – a reality I saw up close and in person when I was an INS Special Agent in 1986 and in the ensuing years when the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) was enacted. As soon as many of the aliens were granted lawful status, they went to their bosses and told them that they wanted to be paid prevailing wages. They told their bosses that they wanted the proper deductions taken out of their pay envelopes so that they would qualify for Social Security when they were older. They told their bosses that they would gladly work on weekends and holidays but wanted appropriate weekend pay as the Labor Department mandates. They also told their bosses that they would not work in a factory that had blocked fire exits and so much filth that they could not breathe. They complained about the lack of air conditioning in the summer that caused the temperatures on the factory floors to exceed 100 degrees every day. Their bosses generally had a short answer to these demands: “You’re fired!” These workers lost their jobs, but their unscrupulous employers did not have a problem finding willing workers; they simply hired the next wave of illegal aliens that were already sweeping through the United States, encouraged and emboldened by the success of their predecessors in being granted lawful status and a pathway to United States citizenship! That is, in part, how our country has come to witness the most incredible surge of illegal immigration in the history of our nation. As an INS Special Agent, I did not see illegal aliens who were unlawfully working in the United States as my “enemies.” I did know, full well though, that the United States cannot solve world poverty by permitting all of the world’s poor to seek refuge in the United States. Today an estimated 44 million Americans live in poverty. Hardest hit are children, according to the Census Bureau, with one in five experiencing poverty. These Americans are of all ethnicities, races and religions. For my colleagues and me at the former INS, there was no joy to be had in arresting aliens who had no criminal histories. But, it is a job that needs to be done in conjunction with the best interests of our nation and our citizens who are finding it increasingly difficult to hang onto their thin slice of the “American Dream.” If we were all crowded into a lifeboat after the ocean liner we were on sank and saw hundreds of other passengers flailing about in the frigid, shark-infested waters, we would certainly want to let them all get on our lifeboat. But what would you do if you looked around your lifeboat and saw that only a handful of empty seats remained? And, after quickly doing the math, you came to the gruesome conclusion that if more than a couple people came onboard, the lifeboat would sink, and all onboard would drown? Such is the situation we are in today! Our nation still admits more than 1.1 million lawful immigrants each and every year. This is far more than any other country admits. These immigrants are immediately placed on a pathway to United States citizenship! A final point: there are temporary work visas that farm workers can be granted to enable them to legally work on farms throughout the United States. One of the problems is that ICE does just about nothing to make certain that these farm workers actually show up to work on those farms after they are lawfully admitted into the United States. I recall that in Brooklyn, New York we found a significant number of citizens of Jamaica, Trinidad and other countries who had been admitted into the United States to work on citrus farms in Florida. Rather then report for work, they headed to New York City where they became involved with different cash crops – marijuana and cocaine! They became involved in shootings and crimes of violence in conjunction with the drug trade. This created a nightmare for the NYPD and the residents of the communities where these individuals were operating – mostly they lived and “worked” within the Caribbean immigrant communities. Meanwhile, the farmers who had petitioned for these workers never got the assistance on their farms that they thought they would get when they made their applications for the visas. This provides still more evidence of how important the enforcement of our nation’s immigration laws are from within the interior of the United States! Cesar Chavez of the United Farm Workers was opposed to illegal immigration because he understood how these people would be mistreated and how they would ultimately supplant American migrant workers in the fields of the farms. Here is a question to ponder. Who really is doing more harm to the plight of illegal aliens in our country? Is it the advocates for open borders or those of us who understand the implications of open borders that fail to protect our nation from the criminals, terrorists and other who would do harm to our country and also cause the erosion of workers’ rights and working conditions through the de facto importation of vulnerable, desperate and easily exploitable people? Before World War II, the enforcement and administration of our nation’s immigration laws were under the jurisdiction of the United States Department of Labor. (Out of national security concerns, immigration came under the aegis of the Department of Justice.) The reason that the Labor Department was put in charge of immigration law enforcement was out of the understanding that a huge influx of foreign workers would have a severe deleterious impact on wages and working conditions of the citizens of the United States. We now look back wistfully at that era and refer to it as the “Greatest Generation!” I fear that at the rate we are going, our generation will acquire a different sobriquet, “America’s Last Generation!”

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