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No Solution to US Illegal Migration Including Residents of Arizona

While others describe a sense of tranquility on either side of the border, there is an underlying tension, too. Drug trafficking is of particular concern, but not everyone wants to talk about it.

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A long line of people, winding past a chain-link fence and a turnstile, distinguishes the boundary separating San Luis, in the U.S. state of Arizona, and San Luis Río Colorado in Sonora, Mexico. Otherwise, it would just appear to be desert.
US illegal Migration, VOA
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A long line of people, winding past a chain-link fence and a turnstile, distinguishes the boundary separating San Luis, in the U.S. state of Arizona, and San Luis Río Colorado in Sonora, Mexico. Otherwise, it would just appear to be desert.

At the U.S. port of entry, temporary farm workers leave their families and queue up daily before dawn to catch a bus to the fields, just outside town. Residents from Arizona join them.

On one nearby date palm farm, men and women wear handkerchiefs to protect themselves from the fine desert sand and temperatures that reach 41 degrees Celsius; but, Mexican farmworker Juán González voices few complaints. The work is steady for 11 months of the year, he says, and the border is calm.“There aren’t many problems,” González said. “There’s crime, but not like in other large cities.”

While others describe a sense of tranquility on either side of the border, there is an underlying tension, too. Drug trafficking is of particular concern, but not everyone wants to talk about it.

It’s complicated

A mix of workers on temporary visas, permanent residents, and U.S. citizens with Mexican family members, residents of San Luis, Arizona, say it’s normal to have a foot on both sides of the border.

Among the Latino-majority population, residents quietly acknowledge that the deployment of the Arizona National Guard to the area — to assist the U.S. Border Patrol in monitoring illegal activity — isn’t the worst idea but has a caveat: “if it’s for narco-trafficking and trafficking of persons.”

“It’s good to end that because it’s dangerous for anyone here along the border,” said Candelario Vizcarra, a San Luis farmworker who lives in Mexico.

A mix of workers on temporary visas, permanent residents, and U.S. citizens with Mexican family members, residents of San Luis, Arizona, say it’s normal to have a foot on both sides of the border.
Desert from where migration is happening, VOA

“They don’t go and attack nobody,” added Greg, a U.S. citizen who works in sales. “It’s just to protect the borders, and I agree.”

Others with business ties in San Luis agreed with Greg, who didn’t want to share his last name with VOA. But they were careful not to voice their opinions out of concern they might appear to be anti-immigrant.

María Herrera, a minimum-wage farmworker, mother, and permanent resident in Arizona, agrees that drug trafficking is a problem and that it is affecting the town’s children, some as young as 12.

“They don’t have work, there is no work, there’s nothing,” Herrera said. “And their best option a lot of times is to go the easy route: rob, use drugs, or act as drug mules (carry drugs) across the border.”

Creating more well-paying jobs would be her suggestion. Absent that, Herrera is skeptical of the National Guard troops’ presence. She worries about the effect of a militarized border on the undocumented.

“Like all Latinos, we worry about what happens to other families like our own, because one way or another, many are family or relatives of some friend of ours that we have in common.

“In the worst cases, they’ll deport the father,” Herrera continued, “and the mother and kids remain here — protected by whom?”​

Common ground

In Calexico, California, 127 kilometers northwest of San Luis, across subtropical desert, a section of 9-meter bollard-style replacement fence towers over the palms and brush to its south. Border Patrol sector supervisor Jorge Rivera says he is grateful for the upgrade because of another issue: the safety of his agents.

“Criminal organizations come over and they attack us with rocks; they throw any type of object toward us to avoid us apprehending any type of illegal activity,” Rivera told VOA.

In fiscal 2017, the U.S. Border Patrol in the El Centro Sector of southern California reported 21 assaults against agents and seized more than 200 kilos of cocaine, 690 kilos of methamphetamine and 70,000 grams of heroin.

But unlike San Luis, some residents concerned about illegal immigration in El Centro bring up a line of reasoning more in tune with pro-Trump areas of the country, including the narrative that those crossing the border illegally are an economic burden on society.

At the U.S. port of entry, temporary farm workers leave their families and queue up daily before dawn to catch a bus to the fields, just outside town. Residents from Arizona join them.
Residents of Arizona are joining migration, VOA

“They are leeching our system, and I pay so much (in) taxes every month,” said Steve Andrade, who runs a security management company. “It … (makes me angry) that all my money goes to those people. … I get nothing out of it!”

Ironically, Andrade admits to once being homeless and an undocumented immigrant himself, crossing multiple times from Mexicali until he successfully evaded the U.S. Border Patrol and settled in California in the early 1980s.

He maintains the Mexican border town was different then.

“In my time, there was nothing, no opportunities … to even survive Mexicali,” Andrade said. “There were no shelters to help you or anything.”

Also Read: Foreign Journalists Quit as The Phnom Penh Post, Cambodia, Fired The Top Editor

Andrade makes his stance on the wall clear — “go for it!” — but others who claim illegal immigration is a danger have other ideas.

Bill DuBois, an El Centro-area resident and owner of a local firearms store, holds firm that “if one illegal crosser gets across, the border is not secure.” But unlike Andrade, the lifelong Californian doesn’t subscribe to the idea of a wall.

“The only way to solve the problem of illegal immigration is to make things better in the other people’s home countries,” DuBois said. (VOA)

 

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Maryland Crab Business Jeopardized by Shortage of Foreign Workers

Olivia Rubio does the hard, tedious work of extracting crab meat on Hooper's Island on Maryland's Eastern Shore.

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As a temporary guest worker, Rubio can live and work in the U.S. during the warmer months and then return to her home country in the winter.
workers at GW Hall & Son Seafood . VOA

Olivia Rubio does the hard, tedious work of extracting crab meat on Hooper’s Island on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

Hooper’s Island is part of chain of three sparsely populated islands in the Chesapeake Bay. After crossing a single bridge, the main road winds through picturesque watermen’s villages and unpopulated areas. Hooper’s is a center for seafood catching and processing.

Rubio has been coming for 15 years from Mexico to work in one of the island’s crab houses on an H2-B visa — a guest worker program that has been a continual issue in the crab industry for business owners in the Maryland Eastern Shore.

“We have the opportunity to come here to work and support our family, help our children move forward, and support our parents. It’s good. We have work. So, we’re grateful,” Rubio said.

H2B visa holders pick crab meat at GW Hall & Son Seafood in Maryland. The state has 20 licensed crab businesses, employing 500 foreign workers. (A. Barros/VOA)

H2B visa holders pick crab meat at GW Hall & Son Seafood in Maryland. The state has 20 licensed crab businesses, employing 500 foreign workers. (A. Barros/VOA)

As a temporary guest worker, Rubio can live and work in the U.S. during the warmer months and then return to her home country in the winter.

Though glad to receive the visa, Rubio wonders about next year; the Trump administration, citing higher demand this year, awarded the visas by lottery, instead of first-come, first-served.

“I hope there are visas to be able to come back and do the work again,” she said.

Rubio’s employer, GW Hall & Son Seafood, needed 40 visas but only got enough for 30 guest workers.

“I don’t know what we would do or the whole area would do without them. I mean from the stores to… I don’t even know how to describe it because of the impact that they have. They keep it all moving,” Robin Hall, co-owner, GW Hall & Son Seafood, told VOA.

Visa shortage

Since the 1980s, crab houses on Maryland’s Eastern Shore have had to hire temporary foreign workers, mostly from Mexico, to extract meat from the crabs’ hard shells. Maryland has 20 licensed crab businesses, employing 500 foreign workers.

In fiscal year 2018, 66,000 H-2B visas were available nationwide for nonagricultural industries. In its budget bill passed in March, Congress said the cap could be raised.

Amid the crisis, U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, who represents Hooper’s Island in Congress, has asked the Departments of Homeland Security and Labor for extra guest worker visas.

H2B visa holders pick crab meat at GW Hall & Son Seafood in Maryland. The state has 20 licensed crab businesses, employing 500 foreign workers.
GW Hall & Son Seafood in Maryland. VOA

Harris said the fiscal year 2018 cap of H-2B visas was filled on January 1, 2018, which left many businesses unable to obtain the temporary seasonal labor they need.

Inside AE Phillips and Son in Eastern Maryland, part of the Phillips Seafood restaurant chain, which is shut down until more work visas become available. (A. Barros/VOA)

Inside AE Phillips and Son in Eastern Maryland, part of the Phillips Seafood restaurant chain, which is shut down until more work visas become available. (A. Barros/VOA)

“The H-2B visa program is a crucial resource for many seasonal businesses … and supports thousands of related jobs held by American citizens. … These temporary workers must pay American taxes, have a clean criminal record, receive no government benefits, and return to their home countries when their visas expire,” Harris said.

But on background, a DHS official offered “no new guidance to share.”

Continuing to pick crab meat, Rubio told VOA that a lot of her friends – who come annually – haven’t got visas.

“So they can’t come here to work, and they need it,” she said.

No workers

At nearby Russell Hall Seafood, the baskets and crates are empty. The kitchen is unused. There are no workers in sight.

Harry Phillips’ company, Russell Hall Seafood, needed 50 visas but got none.

“It never was this way before. We’ve done this for 25 years and no doubt some years it’s been slow getting workers, but we’ve always got them,” he said.

Phillips still has ads in local newspapers and is trying to hire local people.

“We have to actually advertise in newspapers before we’re allowed to even apply for the H-2B program workers, and we do that with a couple of different newspapers and I actually have ads in the paper now for workers, but nobody’s applied,” Phillips said.

Phillips does not like the lottery system when it comes to H-2B visas.

“That’s a big gamble. I mean, we can’t run our business at a gamble whether we’re going to get our workers or not.

Phillips’ work phone telephone rang. On the other end, a worker asked when visas would become available.

“You see? It’s them asking about the visas,” Phillips explained.

AE Phillips and Son, part of the Phillips Seafood restaurant chain, is also shut down unless workers become available. The company got its start in 1916.

H2B visa holders pick crab meat at GW Hall & Son Seafood in Maryland. The state has 20 licensed crab businesses, employing 500 foreign workers.
representational image. pixabay

But the plant’s general manager, Morgan Tolley, said he is “really worried” about 2019.

“We had some problems going on with immigration. A lot of issues are up in the air. A lot of things that people don’t understand or they think they understand. Speaking for the H2B program, which is a non-immigrant work visa, to me personally, that has nothing to do with immigration. It’s a non-immigrant work visa. These people take tremendous pride in the fact that they can come here to United States and work and go home and they’re proud of that right that they have earned,” Tolley said.

GW Hall & Son Seafood was awarded 30 H-2B visa workers but owner said 40 workers would have been ideal. (A. Barros/VOA)

GW Hall & Son Seafood was awarded 30 H-2B visa workers but owner said 40 workers would have been ideal. (A. Barros/VOA)

No locals anymore

“It tears me up.” Hall, who was operating with 75 percent of his workforce including Rubio, did not feel particularly happy or fortunate.

“I’m tickled to death to have [my workers]… But I want us all to get them. I’d really actually almost rather see everybody get them or nobody get them, so we could all be together as a group,” he said.

And he has no hope that American workers will fill the gap. “You rode down here, did you see any American people running around because there’s nobody around here?” he asked VOA.

Also Read: Eating Fish Twice a Week Reduces the Risk of Heart Failure 

“The few people we have here are retired from somewhere else. They moved down here and have a home here on the water and this was a great vacation spot.

Standing on the platform where crabs would be unloaded when they came in, Hall continued, “There’s no local people here anymore. Population’s got so low that you can’t get anybody from it.” (VOA)