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SB 1070 and the Harvest: Reaping What They Sow?

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What does Arizona law SB 1070 have to do with the lettuce crop in Yuma? At first glance, not a lot. But when the harvest season for lettuce and other vegetables comes around in November, that could change.

If SB 1070 is implemented, many farmworkers without legal immigration status—or with it—could decide not to go to Arizona out of fear, causing growers to face a shortage of field hands. This, in turn, would affect the amount of vegetables that can be harvested, and ultimately their prices to consumers.

“This could have a tremendous impact on all the fruits and vegetables that are normally harvested in Arizona from November through February. This is the area and season where more vegetables are grown than anywhere else in the United States. It’s important that we have enough workers to do the work,” United Farm Workers (UFW) president Arturo Rodríguez told America’s Voice.

Last week, Rodríguez appeared on the satirical news program The Colbert Report to promote the “Take Our Jobs” campaign, which challenges anyone who thinks undocumented immigrant farmworkers are taking jobs from Americans to sign up to work the fields themselves. The campaign promotes the AgJOBS bill to legalize farmworkers.

More than 60% of the 2.5 million agricultural workers in the United States are undocumented.

“Five thousand people have shown interest in getting information, but only three are currently working in the fields. The rest, once they found out about the working conditions, decided not to do it,” Rodriguez said.

“One man sent us an email saying: ‘I want a guarantee that I will be paid $1200 a week.’ That’s impossible. No one makes that much working in the fields,” he added.