Question about subsidizing American farmworkers
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This question is part of the Stop Amnesty Challenge. See that page for the details on the Challenge.
This question is only for Republicans that support some type of comprehensive immigration reform or guest workers or mass legalization. That's most national GOP leaders, including those who say they don't support amnesty.
Here's the question:
Earlier this year, Rush Limbaugh floated the idea of subsidizing Americans to do farm labor. He didn't go into specifics, but I'd just like to ask you about that general concept.
We currently give hidden subsidies to growers to employ a workforce consisting of mostly illegal aliens. We could subsidize them a little more and change their workforce to have more American citizens.
You might have a low opinion of subsidies, but the reality is that under the immigration plans you've supported we'd continue subsidizing growers to mostly employing foreign citizens. even if they'd be here legally. Wouldn't it make more sense to increase those subsidies a bit to encourage growers to employ American citizens?
If you think your current plan of letting growers continue to mostly employ foreign citizens is superior to the general idea Rush Limbaugh suggested, could you please outline for us why you think your plan is superior?
These are the notes on the question, including possible follow-ups:
- Make sure and have a print out of the politician supporting some form of immigration reform, guest worker program or similar. Some times they try to hide what they support; ask if unsure. For a tangible example see .
- If the politician says he'd need to see Limbaugh's plan, say something like "Rush only mentioned this briefly, on January 10, 2014. He didn't propose a detailed plan. I'm just asking you about the general concept."
- If the politician says the government shouldn't get involved in employment issues between growers and farmworkers or similar, say something like "Obviously, the government is already involved and will continue to be involved. Your plans are designed in part to ensure growers get the labor supply they claim they need; your plans are a major example of government involvement. I'm not personally against government involvement, I just think it should serve the national interest. In my opinion, subsidizing Americans to do farm work would be preferable to subsidizing foreign citizens to do it. If you think it's better to subsidize foreign citizens, please explain why you think that."
- If the politician says he opposes subsidies, say something like "The reality is that there are already subsidies and those will continue. For instance, a family earning $24,000 per year with two kids in school isn't paying even a fraction of the cost to school their children. The Supreme Court ruled in Plyler v. Doe that we have to provide K through 12 education to everyone in the U.S. So, it's unrealistic to pretend that there aren't subsidies associated with illegal alien farmworkers. They and their children also have access to other social welfare benefits, medical treatment, roads, police, etc. etc. Those are all subsidies, even if they're hidden. The immigration plans you support would have continued those subsidies. What I'm asking about is whether it would make sense to spend a little more and subsidize Americans instead. If you think subsidizing foreign farmworkers is better, please explain why you think that."
- If the politician says Americans won't do farm labor, say something like "That's not correct. Around 25% of farm laborers are Americans, and Americans have historically done farm labor. Other countries manage to get their crops picked without relying on a foreign labor force. Americans will definitely pick crops if the wages are right. Please let me know what you think of the general concept of subsidizing American farmworkers instead of foreign farmworkers."
- If the politician raises the issue of increased produce prices or asks how much this would cost, say something like "As I understand Rush Limbaugh's concept, growers wouldn't have increased costs: the government would subsidize any wage costs beyond what they're paying now. On the other side of the ledger, one benefit would be reduced illegal immigration. So, any government cost would have to be weighed against reduced government spending on illegal aliens, reduced social welfare costs for unemployed Americans, and so on. There would also be non-monetary benefits, such as reduced corruption as growers are forced to abide by our laws. Can you see that there would be benefits to Americans doing farm labor versus foreign citizens doing farm labor?"
 A tangible example is at eliseforcongress . com/issues/immigration:
The North Country has a unique understanding of immigration not only due to our proximity to the Canadian border, but also because of the needs of our local farmers and agriculture businesses, as well as students attending New York universities using student visas. Elise will work in Washington towards an immigration system that upholds the law and keeps Americans safe, while also encouraging economic growth in New York.
Among other things, that's code for some form of guest worker program, or perhaps mass legalization of those working for "our local farmers and agriculture businesses".