Let me ask you a question: When you hear or read about
illegal immigration, do you think about the border fence,
or tunnels, or a border crosser or visa over-stayer? Do
you think of a Latino family or a single person? A farm-worker, construction worker, landscaper, housekeeper in
a motel or a waiter?
The unfortunate circumstance of it all is that the people
living in the U.S. without legal status are frequently
dragged into our government’s federal politics. The
conversation, however, is often short on facts about the
millions of people who are undocumented.
Most of the undocumented people in the U.S. illegally
have been here for years, for instance, and people working service jobs far outnumber migrant farm labor.
About 11 million people live in the U.S. without authorization
There are far more naturalized citizens than unauthorized immigrants in the U.S., and slightly more green card
holders, according to the Pew Research Center.
Source: Pew Research Center
The total number of people living in the country illegally — about 11 million — has made headlines recently,
because immigration advocates suggest that under the
Trump administration’s immigration enforcement policies, almost all of them could be targeted for deportation.
More than 700,000 “DREAMers” (immigrants who were
brought into the U.S. illegally or overstayed their visas
as children) are still protected from deportation through
the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)
A large majority of the people that live in the U.S. illegally have been here for a decade or longer. It is estimated that about two-thirds of unauthorized immigrants
have lived in the U.S. for 10 years or more, with only 14
percent arriving within the past five years.
It should not be surprising that Mexico is the leading nation of origin for U.S. unauthorized immigrants, but the
share of immigrants from Mexico is declining. Mexican
immigrants are a shrinking majority of the population living in the country through illegal immigration.
Of people living in the U.S. illegally, more than half of
this population are from Mexico. Yet, there are fewer
people of Mexican origin living in the U.S. now than
there was a decade ago.
Pew Research Center estimates that between 2009 and
2014, the unauthorized population from Mexico and
South America decreased, while the population from
other regions2 increased.
What Does it
Taking a quick data peek at border apprehensions, the
Border Patrol has apprehended fewer people since
There are varying reasons for the shifting immigration
patterns. For Central American immigrants, conflicts
in their home countries play a role. The Migration
Policy Institute suggests that there are similar reasons
for increased migration from Asia and Africa.
European countries have tightened migration restrictions after record inflows of migrants in recent years.
At the same time, some Africans and Asians are leaving conflict and poverty and going to Latin American
countries with lenient visa policies - Ecuador, Brazil,
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security estimated
that as of Jan. 4, 2016, about 416,500 people overstayed their visas in fiscal year 2015. That’s less than
1 percent of visa holders who entered the U.S. during
that period, but a substantial portion of the undocumented population.
Still, it’s unclear how many visa over-stayers make
up the total number of unauthorized immigrants.
One estimate suggests that it could be as high as 45
percent. A recent study by the Center for Migration
Studies estimates that two-thirds of those who joined
the unauthorized immigrant population in 2014 were
Why’s it so hard to nail down the details? In part,
it’s because the data released last year are the first
numbers on visa overstays that the government has
released in more than two decades.
Federal law requires the Department of Homeland Security to report how many people come into the U.S.
and stay after their visas expire. But the government
has been having trouble collecting that data for years,
as a study by the U.S. Government Accountability
The way airports and other ports of entry are currently
set up makes it difficult to keep track of when a traveler leaves the U.S. The department has been piloting
new programs to identify airport travelers by scanning
their faces and irises.
Without historical data, it’s hard to measure trends.
But the estimates for fiscal year 2015 do show that
Canadians made up the majority of visa overstays.
Here is our bottom line: We have a job to do; a major
responsibility to accomplish – we plant, grow, spray,
weed, harvest, pack, sell, and ship watermelons (and
other crops too) – all in the greatest trade that God
ever created - - to be a farmer! We feed the world.
And, those efforts take Labor! Without labor, we can
There is much to be said (and more that will be said)
about President Trump’s rhetoric and executive actions relative to immigration, deportations, Mexico
and the like.
However, there also may be a silver-lining in the
clouds hovering over Washington. The fact is that
until Mr. Trump entered the republican fray for the
nomination, the topic of ‘immigration’ was not on any
of the candidates’ agendas. None. Mr. Trump made
immigration (the enforcement of our country’s laws and
the need for a legal program) a topic to be debated; to be
addressed. We may have that opportunity to get it done
with President Trump like we have not seen in recent
So, let’s get to work and begin the ‘regular’ process of
contacting our legislators to keep immigration reform
and the need for a legal guest worker program at the top
of the list. Labor is what we need. Labor is what we
must have. The undocumented are willing to work. Let
us create a system that will allow them to do their jobs,
and help us to do ours - - to feed the world. It’s time to
Your Federal Rep
Awaits Your Call
The national membership of the National Watermelon
Association is represented in the U.S. House of Representatives by 155 congressional members (over 35% of
the U.S. House).
Drilling down into the data, there are 16 House members
that represent 59% of our NWA members; 26 that represent 73%; and 42 that represent 78%. That is the type
of advocacy that can work well, and do our association
You may ask, how can you as an individual member
help? Actually, in a few ways:
1. Get regularly involved with
our new advocacy portal
(MUSTER), and contact
your federal legislator(s)
on a regular basis. In
particular, take the 30 seconds
to support the association’s
initiatives that we pursue
on our members’
2. Consider inviting your House legislator to your place
of business or on a ride-with during their district work-with periods. Show them the lay of the land - the farm,
the shed – tell them what you need from Washington,
and what you do not need too! Our grassroots program,
A Day with Watermelon, is an excellent guide to a great
3. Consider supporting the Watermelon Political
(PAC) with your
personal contribution. The PAC
serves as a tool that
will allow us to
support key federal candidates that share in our ideals,
and support our needs. Contributions are accepted online
through our website ( www.watermelon.ag).
The year 2017 is the Year to Educate our Legislators.
Please join us in this effort; advocate for our association,
and its members; advocate for your own business; help to
inform your legislators about farming – what we need –
what we do not need -what will make a positive difference in our daily business. It is up to ALL of US! Let’s
MUSTER the Troops, and get his done!