Empty stations on the harvest lines are more common this year throughout this swath of Arizona farm country, says Rademacher, who serves as president of the Yuma Fresh Vegetable Association. The reasons are many: a 40,000-person limit on the number of foreign guest workers allowed into the US, tighter borders that are discouraging illegal crossings, and rising demand for day laborers in other industries, such as higher-paying construction work.
The shortage of farm workers has been driving wages higher. Last season, base pay for day laborers working in this area was $6.50 an hour. Now it's $8.50. Rademacher says it may go higher because farmers here can't attract enough employees.
Somehow, I expect over a 30% increase in pay is the sort of thing these folks would notice —and miss if a guest worker program eliminated these jobs "Americans don't want". I'll bet a serious border crackdown would do even more.
"Agriculture has ... made its case for sensible immigration reform which would result in a legal, stable workforce for the industry," said Tom Nassif, president and CEO of the Western Growers Association in a Jan. 10 statement. "We now have an opportunity to proceed with reform which will be beneficial for farmers, workers, enforcement officials, and the entire nation," he said of the AgJOBS legislation.
Translation:The members of the Western Growers Association will pass costs amounting to $100,000 per immigrant onto the American taxpayer to save $2.00/hour in labor costs—and will buy politicians to accomplish that end.