Thursday, May 6, 2010
Hundreds of Salinas Valley farm workers who follow the lettuce and broccoli harvests to Arizona each fall are rethinking the annual migration because of the state’s new harshest-in-the-nation immigration law.
“What we hear is, they’re not going anymore,” says United Farm Workers organizer Efren Barajas.
The law allows local cops to demand immigration papers from anyone they suspect is in the country illegally.
Barajas says local ag giants like D’Arrigo Brothers, Dole, and Tanimura & Antle will probably have a tough time finding workers to join their crews in and around Yuma this year, while workers will struggle to find a way to eke out a living locally.
Barajas contends that employers will understand the workers’ dilemma.
“I don’t think they’re going to force workers to go,” he says.
Calls to D’Arrigo, Dole and Tanimura & Antle were not returned.
The farmworkers are not alone. San Diego Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, a dual citizen of Mexico and the United States, has said he won’t show up at next year’s All-Star game in Phoenix if the state doesn’t repeal the law, while major league baseball’s player’s union also called for repeal. The union says the measure will have a negative effect on foreign-born players on 15 teams that attend spring training in the state.
The Arizona law was also on the minds of activists who organized this year’s May 1 immigrant rights event at El Sausal Middle School in Salinas, as were a recent spate of letters to the editor of a Greenfield paper which blamed Oaxacan immigrants for everything from litter in parks to high unemployment.
Catholic Bishop Richard Garcia led a lineup of elected officials including county supervisors Simon Salinas, Fernando Armenta and Jane Parker, and the mayors of Seaside, Gonzalez, Soledad, and Watsonville all of whom signed pledges to fight the Arizona law and support federal immigration reform, Barajas says. The officials also signed onto a UFW proposal to provide public notification when federal immigration raids are scheduled in the area, and expressed their unwillingness to join a federal program in which local law enforcement officers are trained and deputized to do the work of immigration agents.
Currently, local police agencies don’t participate in the program.
“We’re not interested in enforcing federal law,” says Salinas Police Chief Louis Fetherolf, adding that the city only calls on immigration authorities when it does its so-called gang round-ups. “They only focus on hard-core criminals,” Fetherolf says.
“We don’t want people to be afraid to talk with us about about crimes because they might be in the country illegally,” says Monterey County Sheriff’s Office Spokesman Mike Richards, adding that his department has been hit too hard by the economy to take on the work of a federal agency.
Still, the Sheriff’s office is one of about a dozen in the state recently selected by federal immigration authorities for a program in which arrestees’ fingerprints are automatically forwarded to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to determine whether they appear in Department of Homeland Security data bases. The program has resulted in some 300 immigration holds in just five weeks, Richards says.