Because Of ICE, California’s Fruits Are Withering On The Vine

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Farmers warn that fruit will die on the trees due to a shortage of undocumented workers.

Regardless of one's beliefs about undocumented immigrants or immigration reform, one issue that is not up for debate is that immigrants and America's farm industry are intimately connected, and the Trump administration's crack down on those in the country illegally is having an outsized impact on U.S. farm production.

The farm industry is already struggling to find workers.... More than 55 percent of 762 farmers and ranchers surveyed in a California Farm Bureau Federation report from October 2017 said half of their land continues to go unattended because of an ongoing labor shortage directly related to U.S. immigration policy.

California's Central Valley supplies more than half the fruits, nuts and vegetables in the United States and constitutes a $47 billion agricultural industry.

Of the state’s more than 2 million farm laborers, 1.5 million are undocumented, according to Tom Nassif, President of the Western Growers Association, a 92-year-old industry group representing farmers in California, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico. Although Nassif and the association have supported Trump since the early days of his campaign, he says the raids and decades-old immigration policy for farm workers are harming the industry and state economy.

Nassif said employers are aware that the majority of their employees submit falsified documents to gain employment and are concerned that Congress is not working to offer them a legal workforce. “We’re not so much married to a particular proposal. We just have to have protections for our existing workforce,” he said.

“This is retaliation from an administration hostile to immigrants,” said David Huerta, President of the Service Employees International Union United Service Workers West. “Fruit is going to die on the vine this year because of this administration. This government does not understand the contribution of immigrant labor to whole industries, and their failure to see that will have its consequences.”