Under the immigration policies detailed Wednesday night by GOP nominee Donald Trump, farmers who rely heavily on labor are going to have to do a better job ensuring those workers are in the country legally or find a way to hire more U.S. native-born workers.
Farmers who fail to make changes would face enforcement crackdowns by a tougher standard against employers and expanded federal agencies focusing on ferreting out illegal immigrants.
In his highly-anticipated immigration speech in Arizona, Trump did not make any references to farm labor, agriculture, guest workers or the current H-2A program for agriculture other than to say the current immigration policies are broken. He called for a new immigration commission to set standards on immigration levels and choosing immigrants "based on merit, skills and proficiency." The commission would also establish new controls on immigration "to boost wages and to ensure that open jobs are offered to American workers first."
Trump added, "We want people to come into our country, but they have to come in legally and properly-vetted, and in a manner that serves the national interest."
The proposals laid out in Trump's speech run counter to policies championed over the past four years by groups such as the Agriculture Workforce Coalition, although some leaders of that coalition are also members of Trump's agricultural advisory committee named earlier this month. https://www.facebook.com/…
As multiple studies have shown, agriculture relies on anywhere from 500,000 to 1 million undocumented workers. A national farm worker survey in 2014 put the percentage at roughly 48% of farm workers being undocumented. https://www.farmworkerjustice.org/…
Early in his speech Wednesday, Trump noted that current immigration policies are too business friendly. "The fundamental problem with the immigration system in our country is that it serves the needs of wealthy donors, political activists and powerful politicians. Let me tell you who it doesn’t serve: it doesn’t serve you, the American people.
"When politicians talk about immigration reform, they usually mean the following: amnesty, open borders, and lower wages."
Trump later added, "While there are many illegal immigrants in our country who are good people, this doesn’t change the fact that most illegal immigrants are lower-skilled workers with less education who compete directly against vulnerable American workers, and that these illegal workers draw much more out from the system than they will ever pay in."
Trump stressed again in his speech that the country will build a southern wall. Additionally, Trump's immigration plan calls for tripling the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers. While Trump reiterated one of his campaign promises that Mexico would indeed build that wall -- despite the Mexican president's comments to the contrary -- Trump did not detail where funding would come to boost ICE staff. ICE currently has about 20,000 employees and a budget of roughly $6 billion.
Trump's plan would also add 5,000 more U.S. Border Patrol agents to a staff of more than 21,000 now.
The GOP nominee also stressed he would end President Obama's executive orders providing amnesty to the children who came in the country illegally. Screening would also tighten as Trump stressed the need for "extreme vetting" of people coming into the country. Visas would be suspended from parts of the Middle East and Africa.
Trump also made it clear "We will turn off the jobs and benefits magnet." Any business not using E-Verify will need to get on board. Congress had sought to exempt agriculture and other small businesses from using E-Verify in past immigration bills. Trump called for the expansion of E-Verify.
The Ag Workforce Coalition in spring 2015 sent a letter to leaders of Congress signed by 150 groups opposing legislation to mandate E-Verify. Without a workable ag-labor program, the coalition stated such a mandate would put "the economies of communities across the country, in jeopardy." The coalition added that such a mandate "would put a target on the backs of American producers." http://www.agworkforcecoalition.org/…
People in the country illegally will have to back to their homeland and apply to reenter. They will have to do so under new standards and new immigration caps that will be set.
Trump also criticized Democrat Hillary Clinton's immigration proposal, which he said "promises a radical amnesty combined with a radical reduction in immigration enforcement. The result will be more illegal immigrations, thousands more violent crimes, and total chaos and lawlessness."
Clinton's website details her proposal which calls for a plan to offer citizenship for people now in the country illegally: https://www.hillaryclinton.com/…
Text of Donald Trump's speech: https://www.donaldjtrump.com/…
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