by Eric Striker
Every year for the past decade, the $100 million dollar agribusiness lobby has gotten an amnesty bill on the Congressional agenda.
In a nation governed by reason, they would use this money to attract American workers with higher pay and benefits or develop new technology to do the farm work. Instead, they would rather cheat and cut corners by bribing politicians into passing the H.R. 5038 monstrosity, which both Democrats and Republicans in the House of Representatives happily did.
While neo-liberal “experts” like to claim amnesty is widely popular, House members approving this law decided to mask their stink. They were able to avoid personal accountability by utilizing a “voice vote.” This piece of legislation will get to the Senate as early as Spring 2020.
Some of the major “reforms” in this bill would outrage most Americans, but the broad swath of conservative media appears to be ignoring it outside of Tucker Carlson. An op-ed on Fox News by Ali Noori declared this amnesty a “Christmas miracle” and an “economic stimulus” for regions centered around agricultural production. Norman Adams, editor of a website called “Texas GOP Vote,” wrote an attack on Tucker Carlson’s critical segment for “misrepresenting” the bill, claiming that in fact more than 3/4 of Americans love mass immigration as long as they pay a fine and it’s made “legal” post-hoc.
But if the state of California, represented by the bill’s main sponsor Zoe Lofgren, is any clue, all it will do is export her home’s “Elysium” style two-tiered society of billionaires overseeing a third world plantation to the white majority Pacific Northwest and Idaho. Where will middle class people flee to then?
Reagan Amnesty Redux
Millions of supposed agricultural workers were amnestied by the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. None of the punitive aspects of the bill were ever enforced.
Furthermore, the “cheap farm labor Americans don’t want to do” logic did not play out as expected either. The old trope applies to illegal immigrants as well: most of the recipients of 1986 amnesty green cards quit farm work and went off to compete with middle class Americans in building, manufacturing, and trucking/distribution. The standard of proof for receiving the benefits of this bill were also low, with anyone claiming to have ever worked on a farm getting in.
H.R. 5038 keeps all the bad parts of the original Reagan amnesty, but adds some new shocking caveats. The Democrats who voted overwhelmingly for this bill like to sell themselves as protectors of brown people and the poor, but the law anticipates mass post-green card turnover by mandating that farm workers spend an additional four years toiling in fields before qualifying for legalization.
In other words, the bill modernizes nothing. It keeps American agriculture stuck in the 18th century with 21st century indentured servitude, all while advanced nations like Japan and Norway use robots to pick their fruits and vegetables at a far more efficient rate than human hands.
Additionally, the bill will raise the visa ceiling for jobs in landscaping, hospitality, janitors, etc., jobs many Americans currently do and shouldn’t have to compete for, that have nothing to do with agricultural production.
The law was hardly debated in the House, aside from criticism by Representative Doug Collins. He pointed out that illegal aliens who have skipped deportation hearings, have engaged in Social Security fraud, and have DUI convictions can all be granted legal status. Additionally, public money will be set aside to provide illegal aliens with lawyers to straighten out their paper work.
How Many Do They Need?
According to some estimates, there are 2.5 million illegal aliens working in American agriculture. All of them and their families will be granted amnesty under this bill, but history suggests that America’s big farmers and dairymen will be back demanding more as soon as the law is put in place.
Agribusiness is already highly privileged, thanks to generous government subsidies and a “guest worker” system where many of the guests end up staying permanently. A debate is needed as to why this industry, flush with public money, feels entitled to import the entire male population of rural Mexico instead of compensating Americans for what the work actually costs.
Even the one crumb of immigration enforcement the GOP supporters of this bill are touting, mandatory e-verify, will only apply to agricultural work. The workers that do get turned away for farm jobs will simply occupy positions in unregulated sectors (which, after this bill, is all the others).
It is important that this bill go to the Senate before the 2020 election, so that the GOP votes it down or Trump vetoes it.
The irony of Democrats importing slaves for ruthless feudalistic exploitation and Republicans bringing in their future electoral rivals is not lost on them. They prefer personal enrichment over any principle of justice or nationalism.