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Immigration Stalls as Opportunities Wane on U.S.-Mexican Border
By James Nash - Apr 30, 2012 12:01 AM ET
As the economy boomed in the mid- 2000s, many immigrants in southern
California’s border country spurned field work in favor of construction and
food-service jobs. Then they stopped coming to U.S. farms altogether.
So Larry Cox, who farms lettuce, cantaloupes and onions on 3,500 acres in
Imperial County, California, shifted more production south of the border,
where the Mexicali Valley offers a plentiful agricultural workforce, Cox,
53, said in an interview.
Weakened U.S. job and housing construction markets, heightened border
enforcement, a rise in deportations and the dangers associated with illegal
crossings contributed to the decline in immigration, according to the Pew
report. Photographer: Sam Hodgson/Bloomberg
April 30 (Bloomberg) -- Hildy Carrillo, executive director of the Calexico
Chamber of Commerce in Calexico, California, talks with Bloomberg's James
Nash about immigration from Mexico to the United States. An April 24 report
by the Pew Hispanic Center concluded that the flow of migrants came to a
"standstill" between 2005 and 2010, and may have even reversed. (Source:
States in the southern and southwestern U.S. have passed immigration
crackdowns, and the Supreme Court signaled last week it might be prepared to
support an Arizona law requiring police to check the status of anyone they
suspect is in the country illegally. Yet rather than an invasion, Cox’s
experience reflects an April 24 report by the Pew Hispanic Center, which
concluded that the flow of migrants came to a “standstill” between 2005 and
2010, and may even have reversed.
“There’s been a huge migration of skilled agricultural labor into Mexico,”
Cox said. “There is a creeping up of the average age of our workforce. We’re
not getting replacements.”
Without new immigrants, agricultural operations from the desert region
straddling the border to the slaughterhouses of High Plains states such as
Nebraska and Iowa face labor shortages. Farmers got some relief when the
real-estate crash drove out-of-work roofers, builders and contractors back
to lower-paying jobs as field hands, Cox and others say. An uptick in
construction could again leave them shorthanded.
“Harvesting Vidalia onions in Georgia becomes more challenging when you don’t
have labor,” U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss, a Georgia Republican, said at a
Senate Agriculture Committee hearing April 26. “Many of these are jobs that
frankly, Americans don’t want to do.”