Islamofascists in the strawberry fields

I live in a farming community. If you have Brussels sprouts for Thanksgiving or a stuffed artichoke in a restaurant, you’re eating from a field I drive past. If you ever buy Driscoll strawberries, think of me. Apples, lettuce, celery, wine grapes, you name it—if it doesn’t need weeks of high heat, we probably grow it. (And oh yes, sorry about that spinach thing, although really it was from the next valley over, not ours. Honest.)

And this season, height of most harvests, farmers are plowing their crops under. Apples are rotting, lettuces are bolting to seed, grapes and bush berries are being picked far into the night.

But by God, our borders are secure.

Farmers can’t find workers to bring in their crops because the Bush administration needs a villain in this election year, and has chosen to create one out of the residents of our southern borderlands. Half the workers in our fields are here without documents, and honestly, so what? The kinds of young Muslims Homeland Security has in mind, the sorts who strap bombs to their chests in crowded places, are about as likely to walk across the border from Mexico as they are to swim across the sea from Libya. They could simply drive across from Canada, one supposes, but by God we have to make sure no terr’ist gets into our country, and the border with Mexico is a nice picturesque target, and who will make more trouble if we intimate that they are swarming with murderous Muslims, brown Mexico or white Canada?

Considering our own record with domestic terrorism, maybe Mexico should close the border to us (and isn’t a nice twist that Mexico banned Californian lettuce…) Canada might want to seriously consider doing so, as well.

In the meantime, my neighbors had to call out friends-and-relations to help with their emergency grape harvest (two days of heat and–wow), and my ex-neighbor down in the valley had to plow under a quarter of his crops this year because he couldn’t get them harvested. Half the farmers in the Pajaro valley have had to watch at least a part of their year’s work go down the drain. It’s been especially hard on the organic farmers, who live on a very thin profit margin and whose produce is a lot more labor intensive than that of farmers who sterilize their fields before planting and spray them during the growing season. Organic farmers in the Pajaro Valley are seeing their crops choked by untended weeds, and paying their skilled workers for fourteen hour days, and losing ground every day.

Strawberries will be five dollars, and stink of the chemicals they receive eighteen times over the growing season, but by God we’ll keep those Islamofascists from swimming the Rio Grande.

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  1. wildoakvirginia on October 25, 2006 at 4:35 pm


  2. cronznet on October 25, 2006 at 5:10 pm

    Thank you for stating so eloquently the other side of the “homeland security” debate around immigration. It remains beyond my feeble comprehension how so many Americans can dislike the folks who do the many jobs those same Americans would never lower themselves to perform.

  3. Erika on October 25, 2006 at 5:25 pm

    Well said! Our agricultural economy depends on those farmworkers. And I agree, I’m not seeing much of a threat, and to be honest, my Spanish has gotten a lot better since I moved to Santa Cruz.

  4. farmwifetwo on October 25, 2006 at 5:28 pm

    Don’t worry, they won’t be coming from Canada either.

    There’s more border patrols and the USA is bldg and fence to keep us out.

    Oh wait, forgot. The 9/11 bombers came from Canada… nope… came into the US on US Visa’s direct.

    And the power outage was Canada.. nope… that was a tree in Ohio.

    Some of my “blame Canada” rants.

    There is a worker program here and they are too expensive and too easily abused by those that come to work for us. We’ve luckily always found labour. Now if you could do something about the rain??

  5. Steve Z on October 26, 2006 at 2:43 pm

    This is why Bush, who is sympathetic to big business, wants a guest worker program as part of immigration reform.

    The USA has been based on very cheap labor since colonial times. First slavery, then when slavery became illegal, we began importing people from China and Mexico, and of course, exploiting new immigrants for a few generations.

    We’re still doing it today. Some of our cheap labor comes from importing goods from, for example, China. For the work that has to be done here, we use the cheap work of people who are here illegally and can’t complain.

    To solve the whole problem, we’re going to have to get over this need for cheap labor.

  6. 2maple on October 26, 2006 at 7:34 pm

    Yeah, no one ever said farming is easy. I’ve bailed hay til midnight, had some rained on and ruined, and pruned Christmas trees til my hands were raw and my shoulders ache. Farming has it’s own relentless unstoppable clock.

    I don’t have a problem with people who want to come in and work. If people are contributing, however minutely, to the costs of the services they use I’d have no issue at all. My issues are with the financial drain from things like unlicensed, uninsured drivers and non-taxpayers getting benefits that are the saftey net for our citizens in need. So instead they come in illegally, and with no controls, at times get exploited by their employers. Not everyone is not so nice as your neighbors.

    I also have a problem that no one in an elected position appears to be taking steps on either side of our partisan log jammed government is taking steps to resolve this dilemma (like social security, this seems to be another political third rail??). It seems to me, that the fence is actually part of a political game of chicken, forcing the issue to a head. Sort of OK, we’ll keep’em out…and wait to see who screams loudest. How loud are you neighbor’s voices?

    Or maybe, if these crops are still wanted and needed, we will just have to pay what it really costs to produce them in order to sustain our lifestyle.

  7. Pat on October 29, 2006 at 2:17 pm

    Enter Robbie the Robot, stage right.

  8. Roxanne on October 30, 2006 at 3:00 pm

    I don’t understand why our governmental leaders seem to see issues in black and white only. Let “them” in. Or do not let “them” in. Isn’t there a middle ground? Whatever happened to compromise? President Bush signed a bill last week authorizing 700 miles of new fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border. (Too bad the celebrants smashed the Berlin Wallback in 1989; in the interest of Reduce-Reuse-Recycle, we could have brought it over here to the good old US of A to use.)

    Rather than expending our time and money on building and enforcing a Very Big Fence to keep The Others out, why can’t we come up with a plan for allowing people to (temporarily) enter our country as “guests?” At no or little expense, I might add–not the $800.00 fee that has lately been proposed. (Wait–I thought that was the purpose of the Immigrant Visa and the green card? Silly me–I forgot about the extraordinary delays in the processing times for some applications for employment-based immigrants. The overall process for receiving a green card can take 6 years or more! Hmmm.)

    By the way, I absolutely feel that guest imimigrants should receive equitable pay and health benefits, etc., while they are employed here, just as any US worker.

    At the end of their allotted time, these foreign citizens could then opt to request an extension, return to their country of origin, or apply for US citizenship. Oh wait. I forgot. There are people who passed the citizenship test years ago who are still waiting for to find out if they have been granted US citizenship. Why such a bureaucratic nightmare? Why can’t this country seem to get things done in a timely fashion?

  9. Roxanne on October 30, 2006 at 3:01 pm

    Sorry about the typos. I clicked on Publish instead of Edit…

  10. Carole on October 31, 2006 at 9:26 am

    Driscoll strawberries are no longer available in the NE Indiana supermarket where I shop. Silly me didn’t think to check where the substitutes came from.

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