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The Hidden GOP Hypocrisy: Legal Immigration Raises Wages

Trump promises legal immigration for farm workers? Hold your horses!
The Hidden GOP Hypocrisy:  Legal Immigration Raises Wages

This exchange at Monday night's CNN Town Hall with Donald Trump tickled me.

COOPER: I want you to meet John Peghill (ph). Thanks very much.

TRUMP: Yes, hi, John.

COOPER: He's a dairy farmer. He's got 5,000 cows. We have another dairy farmer asking a question for Senator Cruz earlier. John said he's leaning in your favor. Still listening to the other candidates.

John, welcome.

TRUMP: Hi, John.

QUESTION: Mr. Trump - hi. Welcome to the Cheese State.

TRUMP: Thank you. A great state.

PEGHILL: The question that I have - Wisconsin is an amazing state. But our No. 1 economic driver, which is the dairy industry and the cheese industry is right behind it, is being challenged right now by having a labor force dependent on an immigration policy. And we've got over 10,000 farms in this state. And with there being such a strong economic driver, if we don't have a strong immigration policy that will give us the opportunity to keep the ones that we have and provide a vehicle to bring new ones in from Mexico legally...

TRUMP: Legally. You said the word.

PEGHILL: Yes, but can you develop a policy that will give us that, give us the people that we have here to stay here and do the jobs - and create a policy that can bring people in to fill the jobs? We're down to 3.5 percent unemployment rate North of Milwaukee, so that we can't steal any more people from someone else's industry, because that's what everybody's doing at this point. How do we fill the jobs, the good paying jobs? How do we fill those jobs?

TRUMP: Here's where you are, you're in the same position as the California grape growers because they need people to come in.

It's seasonal, in that case. Very seasonal, less seasonal in your case, but still seasonal. And, people will be able - if they can't get people, will be able to come in legally. See, you said the word.


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Right now we have illegal immigration, we have illegals all over the country. We have at least 11 million. Some people think it could be 31 million, it's somewhere in between. It's probably 12, 13, 14 - we have no idea what we're doing.

If you have an industry like California grapes, like perhaps what you're talking about in Wisconsin, we're going to let people come in, but they're going to come in legally. They're going to come in through a visa program and they're going to come in legally. It's going to work out beautifully, you will not be affected. We don't want to affect businesses. We want to grow businesses.

This tickled me because I come from corn and cows country and let me tell you, there is nothing, and I mean nothing, seasonal about milking cows. Cows get milked at least twice a day, 365 days a year. On Easter, at Christmas, during Spring Break.

The other hilarious statement was that the Republican Party (yes, THAT Republican Party) would "develop a policy" that would provide visas to, let's face it, Mexicans, so they could come north to milk the cows 365 days a year. That's permanent residency, folks, because again, cow udders don't take a vacation.

Ironically, Dairy farmers, most of them Republicans, would love it if Congress would do something to help them secure their workers. CNN:

Luchsinger, also a Republican, is a third-generation farmer whose family has owned their land for more than 100 years. He said he doesn't think politicians have an understanding of the work he does. "I don't think that many of the candidates know what it's like to milk cows every day. That's for sure."

He added, "I think if there are people from other countries that are qualified to do the work and are able to work hard, then I don't see what a problem it is having them here to do the work."

Dairy farmers do not qualify for the H-2A program that allows immigrants to come to the U.S. legally for seasonal work. Dairies need year-round help.

"What we need is immigration reform," added [New York Congressman Richard] Hanna, who wants to re-introduce a Farm Bill to allow dairy farmers to have access to full-time help for up to three years with the ability to renew after that.

"What they need is long-term year round workers that can become familiar with the herds, can manager the herds and live on site with their families," says Hanna.

Many conservatives are completely two-faced when it comes to farm immigration. They want to lock out undocumented farm workers because of racism in their base, but they argue against increasing legal immigration because documented workers are more expensive. But National Geographic has published findings that paying a living wage to farm workers has a negligible affect on food prices, because their contribution to the cost of the final food product is so low to begin with.

“Farmers don’t get much of the retail dollar, and then of course farmers don’t give everything they get to workers,” [economist] Martin says. “So it’s fractions times fractions, and you get down to a relatively small share for farmworker wages in retail food cost.” And Martin says that means that raising the wages for farmworkers wouldn’t cost most Americans very much money at all.

Good luck getting that farm immigration bill passed through your party's Congress, Mr. Hanna. Maybe if you worked to elect a few Democrats, we could help you out with a common sense solution.

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