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Got Milk? Thank Immigrants

by Dara Lind on 11/25/2009 at 1:01pm

We know that immigrant workers are a crucial, though often invisible, part of the American workforce. However, as we sit down to pumpkin pies with whipped cream on top this week, it’s important to remember just how many American businesses –dairy farming firmly among them — rely on immigrants to run.

Just ask the Vermont dairy farmer profiled on Vermont Public Radio yesterday morning. Listen to what he tells his employees (most of whom come from Mexico):

You guys are very important. You guys run this farm. I don’t milk the cows here. You guys know the cows.

With the latest round of employment audits from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) hitting Vermont farmers, the farm owned by the farmer in the VPR segment worries aloud what might happen if he’s next:

If all of a sudden my guys were gone tomorrow, it would be really hard to operate.

“It’s hard to find people to do the work,” he tells VPR, not to mention the time it would take to train a new workforce to become as skilled as his current farmhands.

The farmer, like so many small businessmen who have come to trust and rely on immigrant workers, intimately understands that ICE’s current piecemeal enforcement actions aren’t a real solution to our immigration crisis– they are placing many small American businesses in a state of severe anxiety and uncertainty at a time when our economy is incredibly fragile.

As so many of us do, this Vermont farmer hopes to see a system whereby immigrant laborers like the ones who “run (his) farm” can work legally in the United States, to support American businesses and pursue the American dream for themselves and their families.

So, if you sit down to Thanksgiving dinner this week, and your Uncle Bill tells you we should kick all the immigrants laborers out, just shake your head and ask:

Got milk?

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