As the border tightens, Mexican workers who once spent part of each year in American fields without a work permit fear that if they go back to Mexico, they will be trapped behind the border, farmers say. Instead, they stay in the United States, taking year-round jobs that pay more and are less backbreaking than farm work, such as cleaning hotels or working in construction in cities on the Gulf Coast devastated by last year's hurricanes.Not only that, but it's causing headaches for the Republican party:
The problem is now reaching crisis proportions, food growers say. As much as 30 percent of the year's pear crop was lost in Northern California, growers estimate. More than one-third of Florida's Valencia orange crop went unharvested, Regelbrugge said. In New York, apples are rotting on the trees, because workers who once picked the fruit have fled frequent raids by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, said Maureen Marshall, an apple grower in Elba.
Some food growers, who as a group tend to vote Republican, now find themselves fighting hardest against leaders in their own party.
"So many of the farmers here are conservative, but they're finding themselves kind of at odds, not so much with Republicans in this area but with Republicans on the East Coast who have no idea what's going on in the San Joaquin Valley and California," said Daniel Jackson, a California fruit grower. "Something could happen in Washington, D.C., tomorrow, and all the farmers in the San Joaquin Valley would be out of work."
Ricchiuti has a framed photo of President Bush and first lady Laura Bush on his office wall and a pile of "Re-Elect Arnold" signs supporting Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-Calif.) at his processing plant. But he grew agitated when he talked about the GOP's handling of immigration.
"What's wrong with the Republican leadership?" he demanded. "They control the House and the Senate. I would have thought it would be a slam-dunk.
"Certain Republicans are very closed-minded," he continued. "They're prejudiced, and they're concerned about people taking their jobs. Well, you know what? You won't do those jobs. You might stick your head up the grapevine once or twice, but you won't do it a third time."