On the same day that the Labor Department reported 637,000 new jobless claims in the first week of May — up 32,000 from the week before — a group of Senate Democrats introduced legislation designed to fix the labor shortage facing the nation’s farms.
“Today across the United States, there are not enough agricultural workers to pick, prune, pack or harvest our country’s crops,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the sponsor of the bill, said in a statement. “With an inadequate supply of workers, farmers from Maine to California, and from Washington State to Georgia, have watched their produce rot and their farms lay fallow.”
Feinstein’s proposal would create a special “blue card” status for undocumented immigrants who’ve worked a minimum number of hours in the agriculture sector in the past two years. The bill would also allow blue card recipients to apply for green card status after working an additional stretch on America’s farms — either three years working at least 150 days a year, or five years working at least 100 days a year.
The message is clear: Americans may be out of work, but there are certain jobs we simply won’t do. And while it’s true that many of these jobs are temporary, and therefore not terribly attractive to folks with mortgages and monthly cable bills, not all of them fit that category. Indeed, here’s Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., a co-sponsor of the bill, on the troubles facing his state’s dairy farmers:
This problem is particularly acute for the dairy industry, where the employment needs are year-round and require a significant investment from the farmer in terms of training and development.
Immigration restrictionists might want to acknowledge these dynamics as they continue their fight to barricade the borders and deport the undocumented workers already across the line.