Visalia, Calif. It’s a question rekindled by the recession: Are immigrants taking jobs away from American citizens? In the heart of the nation’s biggest farming state, the answer is a resounding no.
Government data analyzed by The Associated Press show most Americans simply don’t apply to harvest fruits and vegetables. And the few Americans who do usually don’t stay in the fields.
“It’s just not something that most Americans are going to pack up their bags and move here to do,” said farmer Steve Fortin, who pays $10.25 an hour to foreign workers to trim strawberry plants at his nursery near the Nevada border.
The AP analysis showed that, from January to June, California farmers posted ads for 1,160 farmworker positions open to U.S. citizens and legal residents. But only 233 people in those categories applied after learning of the jobs through unemployment offices in California, Texas, Nevada and Arizona.
One grower brought on 36. No one else hired any.
Sometimes, U.S. workers also will turn down the jobs because they don’t want their unemployment insurance claims to be affected, or because farm labor positions do not begin for several months, and applicants prefer to be hired immediately.
Fortin spent $3,000 this year to make sure that domestic workers have first dibs on his jobs. But he did not get any takers.