For decades, the U.S. government has been fighting with illegal immigration. With the beginning of a new financial crisis, calls for introducing measures against illegal immigration have become much tougher. A belief persists that illegal immigrants contribute to the existing economic misbalances and take jobs from native employees, thus raising the rates of unemployment. This is why it is particularly surprising to hear California farmers persuade the federal government that the existing immigration policies gradually destroy all growth prospects in agriculture.
Nowhere else is the issue of immigrant labor as acute as it is in agriculture. Even more serious is this problem in California, where more than 2.5 million illegal immigrants currently live (Medina, 2014). Not everyone is against immigration: farmers welcome the growing number of low-skilled workers from abroad. In California, almost all farm workers are immigrants, half of them being illegal (Medina, 2014). They take over the low-skilled responsibilities and jobs, which native workers are not willing to take. When it comes to farming, the only hope to fill the existing labor gaps is by using immigrant workforce. California farmers have no other choice but to hire immigrants, as they seek to save and harvest their crops (Medina, 2014). Since the end of the Second World War, newcomers from abroad have served as the major source of labor for Californian farms. Many of today’s workers are approaching their 50th birthday, and they may no longer be eligible for hard field work. Also, farmers keep losing their most valuable immigrant employees due to threats of deportation (Medina, 2014). In this situation, the agricultural industry in California asks federal and local authorities to lift the ban on using immigrant labor and legalize those, who have been hired for years. Most likely, the national economy will benefit from opening the doors to the immigrant workers, who are willing to take low-skilled or unskilled jobs in the agricultural sector.
At first, it seems that opening borders to immigrant farm workers will kill the economy, making it more vulnerable to future crises. The current state of unemployment is too high to welcome new workers from abroad and provide them with the necessary amount of welfare, legal, and social support. Objectively, the American economy has enough workers to fill the labor gaps in agriculture. However, for many different reasons, many native workers are not willing to use these employment opportunities. With the legal presence of low-skilled or unskilled immigrants, the U.S. economy saves considerable resources it would potentially spend on finding and hiring native workers, who wish to perform low-skilled and, consequently, low-paid jobs. At the same time, as the number of immigrants coming to work in agriculture continues to increase, so do the rates of unemployment due to the growing workforce supply.
Nevertheless, in the long run, the economy will certainly benefit from attracting immigrant workers. First, the agricultural sector will become more powerful, providing customers with quality food products at lower prices. As a result, the amount of taxes paid to the state budget will grow, while reducing the need for federal and state subsidies. Second, as immigrant workers occupy low-skilled jobs, the natural rates of unemployment will gradually decrease. Third, because immigrant workers are willing to work for lower salaries compared with native workers, they will cause considerable savings in farming.
Finally, immigrant workers are usually more productive and motivated to work hard than native employees, which means that, in the long run, they will make the agricultural sector and, as a result, the entire economy more productive, increasing the amount and value of human capital in the economy. It is possible to expect that the country’s Gross National Product will increase as a result of the contribution made by low-skilled immigrant workers to farming.
In conclusion, the issue of immigrant labor remains extremely serious. Contrary to wider beliefs, California farmers welcome immigrant workforce as the only means to save their crops. Legalization of immigrant workers and new laws to encourage labor immigration in farming will lead to macroeconomic improvements in the long run, namely, increased productivity, human capital, and GDP.