Sunday, March 04, 2007

Inmates Will Replace Migrants in Colorado Fields

The negative impact on the economy and local economic development is felt in Colorado where immigration law has become stricter. Farmers are reduced to hiring prison help to work their crops just so they can stay in business. Take this same example, and imagine it as factory work and you have the same problem across the country once these stringent anti-immigration laws pass. We need to find a solution that helps the economy that has become reliant on this labor force.


"Under the program, which has drawn criticism from groups concerned about immigrants’ rights and from others seeking changes in the criminal justice system, farmers will pay a fee to the state, and the inmates, who volunteer for the work, will be paid about 60 cents a day, corrections officials said.

Concerned about the possible shortage of field labor, Dorothy B. Butcher, a state representative from Pueblo and a supporter of the program, said, “The workers on these farms do the weeding, the harvesting, the storing, everything that comes with growing crops for the market.”
“If we can’t sustain our work force, we’re going to be in trouble,” said Ms. Butcher, a Democrat.
The program will make its debut in Pueblo County, where farmers have been hit hard by the labor shortage. Frank Sobolik, director of a Colorado State University extension program that works with farmers in Pueblo County, said he expected that about half of the 300 migrant workers employed by area farms might not return this season.

“There’s a feeling, a perception that these laborers won’t be back because it’s safer for them to find work in other states,” Mr. Sobolik said. “The farmers are really concerned. These are high-value crops we’re talking about here with a high labor requirement.” "

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And further evidence that these policies end up hurting businesses, even turning farmers against each other for workers.


"“It’s very frustrating,” he said. “I’m definitely going to lose customers. We’ve never had an issue like this. With all of us trying to get enough workers on our farms, I’m worried this is going to turn into farmer against farmer.” "

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The solution to provide prison labor is not as effective here either. Perhaps in a factory you might have more success, but in the end it turns into slave labor. You certainly don't have as a good of an end product with someone forced to do the job versus someone getting paid for it.

"But Ari Zavaras, executive director of the Colorado Department of Corrections, said the merit of a hard day’s work outdoors was invaluable to an inmate.

“They won’t be paid big bucks, but we’re hoping this will help our inmates pick up significant and valuable job skills,” Mr. Zavaras said. “We’re also assisting farmers who, if they don’t get help, are facing an inability to harvest their crops.”

With the start of the farming season looming, Colorado’s farmers are scrambling to figure out which crops to sow and in what quantity. Some are considering turning to field corn, which is mechanically harvested. And they are considering whether they want to pay for an urban inmate who could not single out a ripe watermelon or discern between a weed and an onion plant. "

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So your choice is between someone forced to do it, with a worse crop or product, or you can raise the wages for people who do that job. It makes it more attractive for the local population, but to make the job attractive for people outside of this immigrant labor force, the end result would be your average consumer paying a lot more for their daily groceries and basic essentials. It affects everything and people need to think about how to solve the problem before they go to such extreme examples.

Read the whole thing here:

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