The Trump administration should be using this COVID-19 crisis to eliminate immigration. Instead, Trump still wants cheap farm labor.
Typically we hear that if foreigners can't work on American farms, the crops will rot in the fields.
But President Trump has taken it a step farther. According to Trump, without foreign farm labor, we won't have any farms.
President Trump says he has committed to American farmers to continue admitting large numbers of H-2A foreign visa workers to take agricultural jobs, even as jobless claims are set to climb above 3.3 million in the midst of the Chinese coronavirus crisis.
During a press briefing on Wednesday [April 1, but apparently not a joke], Trump suggested United States farms would not survive without a continuous flow of H-2A foreign visa workers who are brought to the country by farmers. There is no limit to how many H-2A foreign visa workers can be admitted to the U.S.
Trump: 'We're Not Going to Have Farms' Without H-2A Foreign Visa Workers, by John Binder, Breitbart, April 1, 2020
Here's how our misguided President explained it:
We want the farmers to be able to get people that have been working those farms for years, or we’re not going to have farms. So they’re going to come in. And they’re going to be given a certain pass and we’re going to check them very, very closely [yeah, right!] — especially over the next month, because remember after a month or so once this passes, we’re not going to have to be, hopefully, worried too much about the virus.
But we want them to come in. We’re not closing the border so that we can’t get any of those people to come in. They’ve been there for years and years, and I’ve given a commitment that they’re going to continue to come or we’re not going to have any farmers.
President Trump doesn't know much about agriculture, and is thus an easy mark for the agribusiness cheap labor lobby.
American farms are not going to disappear without the H-2A program. A certain kind of farm—the type that depends on cheap labor— might disappear, but that would be a good thing.
In the article, John Binder provides some background information.
As federal data shows, American farmers do not wholly rely on H-2A foreign visa workers to take agricultural jobs. H-2A foreign visa workers make up only about ten percent of the total U.S. crop farm workforce. Last year, U.S. farmers hired roughly 250,000 H-2A foreign visa workers.
Did you catch that? "H-2A foreign visa workers make up only about ten percent of the total U.S. crop farm workforce." That's 10%. The way Trump is talking, it sounds like 100%.
Despite record jobless claims due to the coronavirus crisis, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has issued waivers for the H-2A and H-2B visa programs that will help fast-track foreign workers into the U.S. to take agricultural and nonagricultural jobs.
It's amazing how our rulers—yes, even the Trump administration—are so determined to bring in foreign labor "despite record jobless claims"! Truly, this is an addiction, an obsession.
Likewise, in March, Wolf announced he would allow seasonal employers to import an additional 35,000 H-2B foreign visa workers this year — above the 66,000 annual admission cap.
As John Binder points out, this is really about cheaper labor:
While H-2A foreign visa workers earn well above the $7.25 an hour federal minimum wage, farmers routinely use the program to reduce wages in the agricultural industry, Bureau of Labor Statistics data has shown.
In 2017, H-2A foreign visa workers picking crops were paid about two percent less than their American counterparts, while visa workers operating agricultural equipment were paid 23 percent less than the national average wage for that job. The largest wage discrepancy comes with H-2A foreign visa workers who take jobs as first-line supervisors for farming and fishing. They are paid about 95 percent less than their American counterparts.
UPDATE: It's been pointed out that Binder's reference to first-line supervisors being paid "95 percent less than their American counterparts" sounds like a twenty-fold discrepancy. That's not true, of course. It would be more accurate to say that American wages are 195 percent of immigrant wages.
The average wage for a "first-line supervisor", aka foreman, strawboss, or "gangmaster", is 12.39 an hour for an H-2A visa holder, $24.11 for an American.
See Unlimited Cheap Farm Labor: Evaluating H-2A Disclosure Data, by Preston Huennekens, CIS.org, August 6, 2018.