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  1. #1
    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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    Aug 2008
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    Workers Claim Racial Bias in Farms’ Hiring of Immigrants

    Workers Claim Racial Bias in Farms’ Hiring of Immigrants

    Published: May 6, 2013 Comment

    VIDALIA, Ga. — For years, labor unions and immigrant rights activists have accused large-scale farmers, like those harvesting sweet Vidalia onions here this month, of exploiting Mexican guest workers. Working for hours on end under a punishing sun, the pickers are said to be crowded into squalid camps, driven without a break and even cheated of wages.

    But as Congress weighs immigration legislation expected to expand the guest worker program, another group is increasingly crying foul — Americans, mostly black, who live near the farms and say they want the field work but can’t get it because it is going to the Mexicans. They contend that they are illegally discouraged from applying for work and treated shabbily by farmers who prefer the foreigners for their malleability.

    “They like the Mexicans because they are scared and will do anything they tell them to,” said Sherry Tomason, who worked for seven years in the fields, then quit. Last month she and other residents filed a federal lawsuit against a large onion grower, Stanley Farms, alleging that it mistreated them and paid them less than the Mexicans.

    The suit is one of a number of legal actions against farms with similar complaints, including one against a large farm in Moultrie, Ga., in which Americans said they were fired based on their race and national origin, given less desirable jobs and provided with fewer work opportunities than Mexican guest workers. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the farm, Southern Valley, have a consent decree in which the farm agreed to make certain changes.

    With local unemployment at about 10 percent and the bureaucracy for hiring foreigners onerous — guest workers have to be imported and housed and require extensive paperwork — it would seem natural for farmers to hire from within their own communities, which they did a generation ago.

    In fact, the farmers say, they would dearly like to.

    “We have tried to fill our labor locally,” said Brian Stanley, one of the owners of Stanley Farms, which is being sued by Ms. Tomason and others. “But we couldn’t get enough workers and that was hindering our growth. So we turned to the guest worker program.”

    Mr. Stanley, like other farmers, argues that Americans who say they want the work end up quitting because it is hard, leaving the crops to rot in the fields. But the situation is filled with cultural and racial tensions.

    Even many of the Americans who feel mistreated acknowledge that the Mexicans who arrive on buses for a limited period are incredibly efficient, often working through the dark seven days a week to increase their pay.

    “We are not going to run all the time,” said Henry Rhymes, who was fired — unfairly, he says — from Southern Valley after a week on the job. “We are not Mexicans.”

    Jon Schwalls, director of operations at Southern Valley, made a similar point.

    “When Jose gets on the bus to come here from Mexico he is committed to the work,” he said. “It’s like going into the military. He leaves his family at home. The work is hard, but he’s ready. A domestic wants to know, what’s the pay? What are the conditions? In these communities, I am sorry to say, there are no fathers at home, no role models for hard work. They want rewards without input.”

    Such generalizations lead lawyers — and residents — to say there are racist undertones to the farms’ policies.

    “I am not arguing that agricultural work is a good job,” said Dawson Morton, a lawyer who focuses on farm workers’ rights at the Georgia Legal Services Program, a nonprofit law firm. “I am arguing that it could be a better job. If you want experienced people, train them. Just because people are easier to supervise, agricultural employers shouldn’t be able to import them. It is not true that Americans don’t want the work. What the farmers are really saying is that blacks just don’t want to work.”

    To which J. Larry Stine, the Atlanta lawyer for Stanley Farms and other big farms, replied: “The farmers are not racist or against Americans. They have crops to be picked and they see that domestics just don’t have their hearts in it.”

    Jim Knoepp of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit group in Atlanta that has campaigned against the guest worker program, said farm work, like other difficult labor, can be made attractive to Americans at reasonable cost, and farmers should not be excused from doing so.

    “There used to be lots of American pickers who moved around the country,” he said. “But wages have stagnated and conditions have deteriorated and agriculture is unwilling to make these jobs attractive. Think of trash collection. That’s not very appealing either. But if you offer a decent wage and conditions, people do it.”

    Cindy Hahamovitch, a history professor at the College of William and Mary in Virginia and an expert on guest worker programs, said that in the 1970s about two-thirds of farm workers were Americans and a third were foreign, and a decade later the proportion was reversed. Today, she said, the vast majority of farm workers around the country are immigrants, although not necessarily in the guest worker program.

    Republicans in Congress, mindful of the Democrats’ desire to bring legal status to the nation’s 11 million unauthorized immigrants, have made an expansion of the guest worker program a key element of any deal. Current proposals include increasing the number and category of temporary workers to the dairy and construction industries, and increasing their stays from a matter of months to three years so that employers have the workers they say they need.

    The guest workers who are planting cucumbers for Southern Valley and harvesting onions for Stanley Farms are among 10,000 holders of H-2A visas in Georgia this year and 85,000 nationally. Other workers, known as H-2B and numbering around 65,000, labor in other areas in which there is a demand for temporary or seasonal workers, including hotels.

    Employers must demonstrate that they have tried to hire Americans through advertising and other means and that they could not attract enough of them before resorting to the H-2 system. In the litigation that resulted in the consent decree with Southern Valley, the federal government argued that the effort was not made or was intentionally not serious. Excuses were used not to hire locals or to fire them — training was minimal and people were fired when they were less skilled than others who had been doing the work for years.

    “You’ve got some people who don’t work as fast as Mexicans but they don’t teach you, and it can be learned,” said Misty Johnson, who was fired and then rehired by Southern Valley as part of the consent decree.

    For the past few months, Southern Valley has been required to provide daily bus transportation to the farm and demonstrate that it was training and retaining Americans. But a recent inspection of those efforts left federal officials unimpressed.

    Southern Valley officials make no secret of their belief that the consent decree — the free bus, the orientation program they now run and the training — is a waste of their time and money. They assert that there is no discrimination and that they would prefer to hire locals if they could.

    Lawyers for the local workers say the system is rigged to favor low-cost foreign labor because, given the conditions and the pay, no one else will do it. Also, they say, the foreigners often arrive in debt because of the cost of the trip and visa, and legally they are unable to do anything else once here.

    “If you can’t find locals to do the work, why is the answer to bring in people who have little protection and not grant them legal status?” asked Mr. Knoepp of the Southern Poverty Law Center. “If we need them, why not bring them in and make them legal citizens with real protections? The answer is because then they wouldn’t keep working in the fields given the conditions of that work. They would do something else. It doesn’t have to be this way.”

    Don't reward the criminal actions of millions of illegal aliens by giving them citizenship.

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  2. #2
    Senior Member JohnDoe2's Avatar
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    Aug 2008
    PARADISE (San Diego)
    If they give amnesty to the farm workers they will go find other jobs and there still won't be enough farm workers.

    Don't reward the criminal actions of millions of illegal aliens by giving them citizenship.

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    Please support our fight against illegal immigration by joining ALIPAC's email alerts here

  3. #3
    Super Moderator Newmexican's Avatar
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    May 2005
    Heart of Dixie
    How Illegal Immigration Hurts Black America

    With national unemployment hovering around 10 percent and black male unemployment at a staggering 17.6 percent, it's just not true that undocumented workers are doing the jobs that we won't do.

    Chris Hondros/Getty Images

    In October 2008, amidst claims that one of its subsidiaries was knowingly hiring illegal immigrants, North Carolina poultry producer House of Raeford Farms initiated a systematic conversion of its workforce.

    Following a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid that nabbed 300 undocumented workers at a Columbia Farms processing plant in Columbia, S.C., a spooked House of Raeford quietly began replacing immigrants with native-born labor at all of its plants. Less than a year later, House of Raeford’s flagship production line in Raeford, N.C., had been transformed, going from more than 80 percent Latino to 70 percent African-American, according to a report by the Charlotte Observer.

    Under President George W. Bush, showy workplace raids like the one that befell Raeford were standard—if widely despised—fare. And though the Obama administration has committed itself to dialing down the practice, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has occasionally found herself the bearer of bad news to immigration activists who expected the raids to end entirely under her watch.

    For the most part, the workplace crackdowns themselves are unremarkable—gaudy, ad hocthings that mitigate America’s immigration problem the way a water balloon might a forest fire.

    Increasingly however, their immediate aftermaths—in which dozens of eager African-American job applicants line up to fill vacancies—call into question a familiar refrain from the nation’s more vocal immigration proponents: Illegal immigrants do work American citizens won’t. Even former Mexican President Vicente Fox fell victim to the hype, infamously declaring in 2006 that Mexican immigrants perform the jobs that “not even blacks want to do.”

    Four years later, with national unemployment hovering around 10 percent and black male unemployment at a staggering 17.6 percent, it seems even less likely that immigrants are filling only those jobs that Americans won’t deign to do. Just ask Delonta Spriggs, a 24-year-old black man profiled in a November Washington Post piece on joblessness, who pleaded, “Give me a chance to show that I can work. Just give me a chance.”

    Spriggs has a difficult road ahead. In this recessed United States, competition for all work is dog-eat-dog. But that holds especially true for low-skilled jobs, jobs for which high school dropouts (like Spriggs) and reformed criminals (also like Spriggs) must now vie against nearly 12 million illegal immigrants, 80 percent of whom are from Latin America. What's more, it seems that, in many cases, the immigrants are winning. From 2007 to 2008, though Latino immigrants reported significant job losses, black unemployment, the worst in the nation, remained 3.5 points higher.

    “I don't believe there are any jobs that Americans won't take, and that includes agricultural jobs,” says Carol Swain, professor of law at Vanderbilt University and author of Debating Immigration. “[Illegal immigration] hurts low-skilled, low-wage workers of all races, but blacks are harmed the most because they're disproportionately low-skilled.”

    Despite President Fox’s assertion, of the Pew Hispanic Center’s top six occupational sectors for undocumented immigrants (farming, maintenance, construction, food service, production and material moving), all six employed hundreds of thousands of blacks in 2008.

    That year, almost 15 percent of meat-processing workers were black, as were more than 18 percent of janitors. And although blacks on the whole aren’t involved in agriculture at anywhere near the rates of illegal immigrants—a quarter of whom work in farming—about 14 percent of fruit and vegetable sorters are African-American.

    For their efforts, African Americans were paid a median household income of $32,000 in 2007. In the same year, the median household income for illegal immigrants was $37,000.

    Audrey Singer is a senior fellow specializing in race and immigration at the Brookings Institution. She agrees that blacks are disproportionately hindered by illegal immigration, but says that pay is a necessary variable to note when talking about work Americans will and won’t do. “There is evidence that shows people at the lower end of the skill spectrum are most affected by immigrant labor, particularly illegal immigrant labor,” she says. “But would Americans do the jobs illegal workers do at the wages that they’re paid? I don’t think so.”

    Besides competing for work while simultaneously attempting to avoid drastically deflated paychecks and benefits, unemployed African- American job seekers must also frequently combat racial discrimination. In a 2006 research paper called “Discrimination in Low-Wage Labor Markets,” a team of Princeton sociologists discovered that, all else being equal, black applicants to low-wage jobs were 10 percent less likely than Latinos to receive positive responses from potential employers. Furthermore, employers were twice as likely to prefer white applicants to equally qualified blacks.

    "To be blunt, a lot of employers would rather not deal with black American workers if they have the option of hiring a docile Hispanic immigrant instead,” says Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies. Krikorian’s organization advocates a large-scale contraction of immigration to America, one of the main reasons being that low-skilled immigrants aren’t contributing to the U.S. labor force in a way that American citizens can’t. Nevertheless, Krikorian says that easily exploitable immigrants remain attractive to businesses looking to eliminate hassles. “[Illegal immigrants] are not going to demand better wages, and they're not going to ask for time off,” he adds. “And frankly, a lot of bosses are thinking, 'I don't want to deal with a young black male.'"

    Most political analysts expect the debate over immigration reform to find new life in 2010, under a president who thoughtfully supports both increased border enforcement and the “recognition of immigrants’ humanity.” Wherever the discussion meanders, however—from amnesty on the left to expulsion on the right—from here on, it seems that anyone interested in speaking thoroughly on the matter can no longer do so without discussing its impact on black America.

    This type of discussion has proved difficult in the past, however. “Many of the black scholars dance around this hard issue,” says Swain. “They do their research in such a way that it doesn’t address how immigration affects blacks. There’s a lot of pressure to say the politically correct thing—that immigrants aren’t hurting African Americans. Well, that’s not true.”

    Cord Jefferson is a regular contributor to The Root.

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