Washington apple growers could have had one of the best apple harvests in the state’s history — if not for the lack of workers. Orchard owners say a federal immigration crackdown and extreme anti-immigrant laws in states like Alabama and Arizona have scared off many of their workers.
Some farmers have tried to hire domestic workers. Orchards have “pickers wanted” signs, and growers have asked neighbors for extra workers. But their efforts have been unsuccessful to replace the immigrant farm workers they typically hire. So just like farmers in Alabama and Georgia, their crops will go to waste without without the experienced workers to pick the apples by hand:
Growers have struggled for years with labor shortages, but they say this harvest season is one of the toughest yet. Typically, about 70 percent of the state’s farmworkers are in the country illegally. But many Mexican and other migrant workers stayed away this year after some states passed tougher immigration laws and the federal government cracked down.
“We’ve been dealing with this for a number of years now, and until something changes at the federal level, growers are going to struggle having enough workers,” said Mike Gempler, a farm labor contractor for Washington growers.
Gov. Chris Gregoire assembled a delegation of 15 farmers last month for a trip to Washington, D.C., where they urged Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform. At the time, Gregoire estimated the state still needed 4,000 workers to complete the harvest, which could have been the third-largest in state history.
The Supreme Court held nearly 70 years ago that a state cannot set its own immigration policy separate from federal law because of how it will affect every other state in the United States of America. As the Court explained in Hines v. Davidowitz, “[e]xperience has shown that international controversies of the gravest moment, sometimes even leading to war, may arise from real or imagined wrongs to another’s subjects inflicted, or permitted, by a government.” If an American government is going to imperil our foreign relations with another nation, that decision should come from a decision maker that has actually been elected to represent the entire nation, not someone who is only accountable to the people of Alabama.
Washington’s plight demonstrates that this problem is not limited simply to foreign policy. The voters of Alabama elected an anti-immigrant government, and the people of Washington suffer for it without any ability to hold Alabama’s leaders accountable at the polls.