Fear in Trump Country: How Will ICE Crackdowns Affect California Agriculture?

California farmers continue to sound the alarm over a recent wave of ICE deportations and audits, claiming that the Trump administration’s crackdown on undocumented immigrants is compounding an existing labor shortage and placing the Golden State’s entire agricultural industry in jeopardy.

First, a roundup of some of the articles on the subject over the past two weeks:

At least two dozen Kern County farm workers arrested in latest immigration sweep across California

Farmers Fear Immigration Crackdown Could Devastate California Agriculture

California Agriculture Sees ‘Chilling, Damaging’ Effect From Wave of Immigration Audits

California Fruit Will ‘Die on the Vine’ After Ice Raids, Labor Warns 

California Crops Rot as Immigration Crackdown Creates Farmworker Shortage 

That last one, a report from NBC News, really ticked off the people at Breitbart,  who duly noted that the reporters were relying on an annual survey pertaining to losses from a lack of workers in 2015.

And that’s where the entire debate gets confusing because, while there is little doubt that California is suffering from an agricultural labor shortage, these farms saw their fair share of audits and deportations under the Obama administration as well. Critics counter that under the current president, ICE is targeting good and honest workers alongside the criminals for deportation.

California’s agricultural labor shortage has become a sticking point as conservatives in Congress debate new legislation on immigration. A bill in the House has run into opposition from the California Farm Bureau Federation because of these concerns. The state’s farm lobby, which supported Trump, is a big part of the reason the bill is unlikely to move forward this year

Tom Nassif, President of the Western Growers Association, estimates that 1.5 million of the state’s 2 million or so farm laborers are in the U.S. without paperwork. That’s a colossal number any way you spin it. Without more reassurance, it’s hard not to sympathize with the fears.