v13n1_1 - V 13 no 1 Sep/Oct 2009 Immigration Reform What...

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Also in this issue Supply Management for the U.S. Dairy Industry? Opportunities and Challenges Tina L. Saitone and Richard J. Sexton .................... 5 Four Proposals for the Next Climate Agreement Larry Karp ........................................ 9 V. 13 no. 1 • Sep/Oct 2009 Immigration Reform: What Does It Mean for Agriculture? Philip Martin P resident Obama met with 30 Con- gressional leaders June 25, 2009 to begin “an honest discussion about the issues” involved in immigration reform. The major issue is what to do about unauthorized foreigners. Accord- ing to Passel and Cohn, about 5% of U.S. residents and 7% of California residents were foreigners believed to be illegally in the United States in 2008. About two-thirds of the 12 million unauthorized foreigners are in the U.S. labor force, meaning that 5% of U.S. workers are not legally authorized to work here. Most of the eight million unauthorized workers are in nonfarm jobs in sectors that include construc- tion, manufacturing sectors such as meat packing, and services such as food preparation and cleaning. However, the estimated one million unauthorized for- eigners employed in agriculture are over half of the hired farm work force, and the share of unauthorized workers may be climbing as they spread from seasonal jobs on crop farms to year-round jobs in dairies and other livestock operations. This article reviews immigra- tion patterns, foreign-born workers in agriculture, and the major reform proposals. The concluding section assesses the possible impacts of the status quo, which is likely to persist. Immigration Trends In 1970, the 10 million immigrants (for- eign-born residents) in the United States were less than 5% of U.S. residents; by 2010, the 40 million immigrants are likely to be 13% of U.S. residents. The largest single source of immigrants is Mexico—a third of foreign-born U.S. residents were born in Mexico. Most Mexican-born U.S. residents arrived since 1990, and a few numbers highlight the dramatic growth. In 1970, when Mexico’s population was about 50 mil- lion, there were less than 750,000 Mex- ican-born U.S. residents. By 2010, when Mexico expects 110 million residents, there are likely to be 13 million Mexican- born U.S. residents, meaning that more than 10% of those born in Mexico will have moved to the United States. There are three major subgroups among the foreign born. About 14 million are naturalized U.S. citizens. Another 14 million are legal immigrants who have not yet become naturalized U.S. and temporary visitors—such as foreign students and guest workers— many of whom stay in the United States several years and some of whom become immigrants. Finally, there are 12 mil- lion unauthorized foreigners, including seven million or 60% Mexicans. Unau- thorized foreigners, almost all of whom were born in Mexico, are over half of the hired workers on U.S. crop farms.
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