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Obama action may raise prices of fresh produce
If the price of your produce goes up over the coming year, you may be able to chalk it up as another example of unintended consequences.
President Obama's executive action to prevent some 5 million people from being deported is expected to make an agricultural labor shortage even worse, according to trade organizations.
The fact is, some 85 percent of the farm workers in the United States are here illegally, and stay in low-paying jobs only because they are afraid of being deported.
Take away that fear, and thousands of them may choose to leave seasonal farm jobs for steadier work in construction or service industries such as hotels and restaurants.
The Western Growers association estimates that will exacerbate the worker shortage -- already 15 to 20 percent -- and make it more important that Congress enact real immigration reform such as a sound guest worker program.
Most of the farm workers in question toil in California, 330,000 of the 2.1 million nationwide, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Texas is second, with less than half California's total.
While vegetables are a relatively small crop in Nebraska -- most of our agriculture is massive and automated -- we haven't escaped the issue. The Cornhusker state is No. 18th in per-capita illegal immigrants, with an estimated 1.365 people per 100 residents.
Once Obama's executive action starts going into effect next year, it will protect the parents of legal U.S. residents from deportation and expand a 2012 program shielding from deportation people brought into the U.S. illegally as children.
Americans are in a moral dilemma -- we claim to live under the rule of law, yet we enjoy low prices created by use of illegal workers. (We also enjoy low prices made possible by Asian factories with working conditions that wouldn't be tolerated in America, but that's another issue.)
It's up to Congress to make the tough decisions it will take to settle the immigration issue once and for all. So far our representatives have been unwilling to accept the responsibility we, the voters, have entrusted to them.