Thursday, December 22, 2005

Tis the Season - thank an Illegal

The guest-worker program is an issue that the Bush administration has right. The nativists and border zealots (ala Hannity and O'Reilley) should examine the contents of their refrigerators before casting stones. Nick Gillespie and the folks at Reason have this to add:

While politicians put presents under their trees they should think about workers such as Buca, a 35-year-old Mexican immigrant who works in North Carolina, where one out of every five Christmas trees sold in the United States is grown. It is grueling, backbreaking work, the sort that most of us born in the United States would never do, for any amount of money. The typical worker makes between $6 and $8 an hour to cut, stack and haul trees on a mountainside. During the harvest season, they routinely pull shifts that last 16 hours, often in harsh weather.Buca (we've omitted his last name to protect his family's identity) has an H-2A temporary agricultural visa, which allows him to work for about 10 months out of the year, while Christmas trees are being grown or cut. Every December, after the harvest, he has to leave the country -- and his wife and two children -- returning only in February. Buca's wife, who works as a nanny, is an illegal immigrant, so she stays behind in North Carolina with their two children rather than risk not being able to get back into the United States.

Buca and his wife arrived in North Carolina in 1994, leaving behind $1-an-hour jobs in a Florida orange grove. Despite their long history of employment in the United States -- and even though their kids are native-born U.S. citizens -- they have no serious shot at permanent resident green cards.

Given her undocumented status, Buca's wife simply can't risk applying without fear of arrest or deportation. Her lack of legal working status is something she shares with more than half of the nation's agricultural workers. Most of the people who raise your turkey in Minnesota, dig your potatoes in Idaho, pick your corn in Illinois, and more are illegal immigrants.

We pay so much lip service to charity and aid. But, as usual, it seems most American tithe-givers prefer to keep a safe distance between themselves and those they pity. Not to mention qualify the scope and extent of such aid to protect their own short-sighted self-interests - e.g. farm subsidies, anti-outsourcing measures and walls along the border.