Dec 03, 2013 | 8399 views | 1 1 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Why Liberals and Conservatives are Both

Wrong about Immigration

Longtime INS Employee Says Proposals from Both Sides of

the Aisle Will be Bad for Legalized Farmworkers

Michael G. Harpold has spent most of his adult life on the front lines of immigration, including serving as a United States Border Patrol officer in California’s San Joaquin Valley during the early years of the Grape Strike led by Cesar Chavez. That’s why he’s able to spot the flaws in immigration policy proposals coming from both sides of the aisle.

“There’s plenty of advocacy for increased numbers of immigrants and new guest worker programs, but not much discussion about the consequences,” says Harpold, a 35-year veteran of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and author of the new book Jumping the Line (, which gives readers a realistic glimpse into the lives of two farmworker families.

For instance, he says, both houses of Congress have passed legislation creating new programs that will guarantee growers a huge pool of new, low-skilled workers, but will do nothing to improve the lives of those already in the states working on farms. Growers will not have to pay into social security and unemployment for guest workers.

“Despite immigration reform, domestic farmworkers will continue to live as an impoverished underclass,” Harpold says. “If we want to help immigrant and U.S. citizen farmworkers, we can’t bring a new flood of low-skilled workers into the country who will compete for their jobs.”

Harpold, who served on the staff of former INS commissioner Leonel Castillo, points out where political ideology goes wrong on the immigration issue:

• Illegal immigrant farmworkers are not self-entitled freeloaders. More than half of workers employed on farms, and a huge portion of those hired in food processing and meatpacking, are not U.S. citizens or legal immigrants. Many were driven off their farms in Mexico because they couldn’t compete with American corn exports. Out of necessity more than fifty percent of farm families in Mexico have one or more family members working illegally in the U.S. Tacitly invited by unscrupulous U.S. employers seeking cheap labor, the vast majority slipped across land borders or were smuggled, facing incredible danger and hardships.

• A relaxed border policy is a bad idea. Our immigration laws have been refined over decades to reunify families, provide needed workers to U.S. business and provide a haven for political refugees. To that end, more than 1.2 million new immigrants are brought into the U.S. each year in addition to more than 40 million visitors. Liberals say the system is broken and the law is being violated because not enough visas are being granted, but there will always come a point when the country needs to say no. No system can be fair if the regulations governing it are not enforced, as has occurred throughout the past two and a half decades. Relaxing our immigration standards, as some liberals support, allows for a constant stream of new immigrants, grinding wages to the floor and guaranteeing a state of perpetual poverty for farmworkers.

• Immigrants face the same problems as U.S. citizens. The fact that manufacturing jobs have moved overseas has been a significant blow to the American workforce. Earlier immigrants from Europe had next-level jobs and industries to climb their way out of entry-level jobs, but those next-level jobs are no longer there for immigrant farmworkers. Wages for meatpackers and construction workers have fallen as those occupations have become overloaded with job-hunting, low-skilled workers. “The way out for most farmworkers means standing on a street corner near a Home Depot hoping to be hired for day labor,” Harpold says.

“Progressives need to remember that it’s not fair to invite immigrants only to have them discover the American dream is on hold indefinitely,” he says. “Conservatives need to accept that many of the estimated 11.5 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. are already deeply integrated into our economy and society. Until relatively recently, illegal immigrant farmworkers were simply integrated into the system after a period of time. Congress should enact a law allowing them to remain legally and work until they can qualify for a green card – something that’s been done in previous immigration policy.”

About Michael G. Harpold

Michael G. Harpold began his 35-year career in the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) as a border patrol inspector on the Mexican border. Later in his career while stationed at Bakersfield, California, he met César Chávez. Their paths crossed because Chavez believed that illegal border-crossers were a threat to his efforts to build a union for farmworkers. Harpold served two years in Vietnam with the U.S. Agency for International Development and, after returning to the INS, became an officer of the employee’s union, making frequent appearances before congressional committees testifying on proposed immigration legislation and the INS budget. Harpold served five years in the U.S. Army and won a competitive appointment to West Point. He holds a bachelor’s degree from California State University at Fresno and attended Golden Gate University School of Law in San Francisco.

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December 05, 2013
Mr. Harpold is on point with his observations, but I would like to add a few extra 'finer' points.

In the new 'Comprehensive Reform' bill (S744), the low-skilled farm and agricultural workers will be granted legal status under what is being called the 'blue card' program. This program is set up so that these workers MUST remain in the same employment that they hold at the time they are granted legal work status. This was done because the farm/agricultural lobbies are fully aware of what occurred after the 1986 amnesty. Once legal, almost all of the farm workers left the farms and went in search of better jobs in the cities. This is what encouraged the new wave of illegal alien workers that we are now discussing.

Of course, having said all that, the 'blue card' program has a built-in 'escape clause'. The Secretary of Homeland Security can, at the request of a 'blue card' worker, allow them to adjust to a 'green card' status. Granting this request then means that the farm worker can find a new job off the farm.

So, in reality, as soon as the first worker is granted this change of status (they learn to use the system quickly), many, id not all,'blue card' workers wil make requests for a change of status.

This will lead to the need for more illegal workers to fill the now vacant farm jobs. Which is why the farm lobbies are also pushing for an increases in the visa numbers for agricultural workers.

In his article, MR Harpold uses the commonly accepted statistic of 1.5 million illegal aliens currently present in the U.S. I firmly believe the number to be about twice that figure. While I have no concrete data - no one else does either, so any figure is just a 'best guess".

Here is how I come to my figure -

Using the year of the last amnesty, 1986, that was 27 years go. FOr the sake of simplicity, I'll just use 25.

Federal government statistical estimates (best guess) is that between 3-4 million people entry the country illegally yearly, 25x3=75 million(M)

The federal government also states that roughly 1 million are caught trying to enter and removed or returned each year, so 25x1=25M; 75-25=50M

Non-government organizations (NGOs) that support the illegal aliens state that roughly 1M illegal aliens 'self-deport' yearly, 25x1=25; 50-25=25M

If you hadn't noticed, I used the smaller of the two estimates of 3 million people attempt to enter. If the 4 million number is used, the bottom line is that approximately 50M illegal aliens are in the U.S.

Of course this number is so huge as to engender discredit, but I see no reason not to believe that it is definitely larger than 11.5 million.

Of recent, the number being 'tossed out' is 20 million.

Also, take into account that I made no mention of the number of people who arrive in the U.S and are admitted with a valid visa and simply overstay their lawful period of admission. This had been determine to being roughly 40% of all entrants. Given that, as Mr. Harpold mentions in the article, about 40 million people enter the US each year, think what 40 percent would mean numerically. But to be far and reasonable, of tha t40 million, a portion are US citizens and lawfully admitted workers, but let's just guess that about 20 million of these are those who are simply 'casual visitors', meaning for short term visits. 40 percent of 20 million is 8 million.

SO you can see that, while the exact number is a bit hard to grasp, it is easily more than double to publicly stated one.