Fearing labor shortages even higher than last year’s 20 to 25 percent, Michigan farmers are appealing to Congress to streamline the current H-2A visa program, allowing illegal immigrants to stay in the United States without penalties.
Duane Frens, executive director of the Michigan Celery Promotion Cooperative Inc., says, “The guys getting laid off at GM aren’t qualified to do farm labor, and they certainly aren’t interested in doing it.”
According to the Department of Homeland Security, the number of illegal immigrants living in Michigan has risen from 37,000 a decade ago to 70,000 today. The state spends about $6 million annually on migrant-related day care, Medicaid and food stamps. Crops picked by Michigan seasonal labor brought in $681 million last year.