Thursday, June 14, 2012

Deportation: nobody wins

Newly fired H2A workers on return bus headed back to
Nogales via Susanville, Tulelake fairgrounds, 2006.
Via HAC News (@RuralHome), a USDA economic report on the likely effects on farm labor of bills pending in Congress that would discourage undocumented farm work more severely while encouraging farmers' employment of H2A guestworkers.

Likely results, according to the USDA Economic Research Service: a big drop, more than a third, in "unauthorized workers employed as farmworkers" compared with the totals otherwise projected. Possibly 5.8 million fewer undocumented workers in all U.S. jobs and 156,000 more H2A farmworkers. A much smaller increase in farm employment by U.S. legal residents and citizens, though at slightly higher wages. Decrease in total number of farmworkers overall. Decrease in production in the U.S. economy generally. Average wage decreasing overall as citizens and permanent residents move into low-paid jobs formerly held by undocumented workers. Gross national product falls about 1 percent.

The report doesn't express an opinion on changes in the likely gross national human freedom, but seemingly that wouldn't be good. It's counter-intuitive but true that legally present H2A workers can have less freedom than undocumented workers who live in danger of deportation from the start. H2A really is a form of indenture, creating an archaically extreme level of dependence on the employment relationship because the worker's legal presence in the U.S. depends on it. An H2A worker who is present in the U.S. but working for someone other than the originally contracted employer is undocumented, and faces a worse risk of discovery and deportation than an undocumented neighbor who crossed the border illegally from the start.

This case of exploitation at Tule Lake in 2006, part of which I saw personally, is not the only story of its kind.

Sad old world.

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