Bins of Granny Smith apples towered over two conveyor belts at P-R Farms' packing plant. But only one belt moved. P-R Farms, like farms up and down California and across the nation, does not have enough workers to process its fruit.
"We're short by 50 to 75 people," said Pat Ricchiuti, 59, the third-generation owner of P-R Farms. "For the last three weeks, we're running at 50 percent capacity. We saw this coming a couple years ago, but last year and this year has really been terrible."
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.
Talk about the law of unintended consequences! This was a point that I haven't seen raised too often, although most people in the field know it to be true: making it harder for Mexicans to get here doesn't keep them from coming here, it keeps them from going back home. For those people who hate immigrants living here, keep in mind that they're moving here permanently precisely because of the actions you've taken against them. Does that make you feel stupid now?