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The Trump administration’s war on immigrants is increasingly a war on California and the state’s embrace of safe and pro-immigrant policies. In the face of the ugly crackdown, Republican members of Congress are remaining silent as the state and one of its key industries – agribusiness – faces an existential threat.
Recent articles in the New York Times and McClatchy – which we excerpt below – explore the threat to California’s economy as a consequence of the Trump administration’s extremism.
In the New York Times, Miriam Jordan and Jennifer Medina write about those trapped in the middle of the feud: California’s farmers and workers: “‘I Am a Pawn’: Trump’s Immigration Fight With California Squeezes Those Caught in the Middle”
California farms are heavily dependent on immigrants to fill their physically demanding and often low-paid jobs, and it is no secret that many of those immigrants are in the country illegally.
When Bee Sweet Citrus, a large grower and shipper of oranges, lemons and grapefruit in Fowler, in Central California, plastered on the wall an advisory about ICE’s inspection plans, the company lost some packers, sorters and administrators, one employee said.
“I resigned out of fear,” said the worker, Ana, who asked that her surname be withheld because she is undocumented. She said she hung on until Feb. 16, close to the deadline for the company to submit paperwork to ICE, so she could make another month’s rent. (The company said it was complying with state and federal laws regarding the ICE audit, but declined to comment further.)
Faith in the Valley, an advocacy group based in Fresno, said it had received a spate of calls from workers rattled after seeing the notices about audits. Manuel Cunha, the president of Nisei Farmers League, a growers’ organization, said, “I have never seen workers quit like this before.”
“There is fear and hysteria,” he said.
ICE has also stepped up activity in urban areas, conducting sweeps and delivering audit notices to hundreds of businesses in San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles.
Last week, ahead of the lawsuit announcement, a California Farm Bureau Federation delegation traveled to Washington, D.C. to outline farmers’ concerns over the GOP’s immigration proposals. McClatchy’s Emily Cadei reports:
The state’s farm lobby objects, specifically, to provisions in the bill that would cap agricultural work visas, mandate that companies confirm their employees’ legal status using the online e-verify system and require existing workers here illegally to go back to their country of origin before they can return on an agricultural work visa.
California’s agricultural sector has a particularly high reliance on seasonal workers and those in the country illegally. “We don’t believe, after talking to our farmers, that people here with false documents are going to raise their hand … and touch back,” said Nassif. Combined with the threat of mandatory e-verify checks, California farmers fear those workers will simply flee, and “then we lose our entire workforce,” he said.
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice,
California’s $45 billion agribusiness is facing an existential threat. And yet leading Republican members of the state’s congressional delegation, such as House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA-23) and Representatives Jeff Denham (CA-10) and David Valadao (CA-21), are standing idly by, aiding and abetting the Trump crackdown, abdicating their potential leadership roles, and jeopardizing the state’s economy in the process.