Because of the deeply rooted presence of immigration in the country there has always been controversy regarding the issue. Most importantly, efforts by members of both ends of the political spectrum have had serious implications for the current undocumented population in the U.S. Currently, according to President Donald Trump’s website (2017), the White House administration has kept up with his campaign assertions; it sees a need for a real immigration reform.
Current federal administration is focused on lowering the influx of illegal immigrants coming into the country and reducing the number of already existing undocumented persons through methods of deportation. Much of what is debated today regarding immigration reform pertains to existing undocumented individuals living in the U.S. According to Trump’s website, his administration aims to reduce the number of illegal immigrants in the U.S. by tripling the number of ICE officers, making the deportation of criminal aliens mandatory, defunding sanctuary cities and working with local gang task forces to deport gang-affiliated individuals.
Now you may ask, why is immigration reform by the Trump administration an issue that we must be informed about? As members of the Ventura County community, this hits very close to home. According to the Central Coast Alliance United for A Sustainable Economy (CAUSE), Ventura County is home to 182,987 immigrants a number that amounts to 22 percent of the population. More so, it estimates that there are 14,000 undocumented farmworkers in the county.
So the chances are good that you’ll see one or a few of those hard-working individuals already laboring while you are just beginning your day. Once aware of the very real facts, it is our turn to question the sympathy we may feel for this population and really ask ourselves, “What can we do to keep them safe?” After all, without them, who would harvest the food we serve on our tables? One option is the promotion of a sanctuary city, or county for that matter.
In efforts to protect all people who live in the county, the removal of individuals who engage in criminal activity is a reasonable proposition. The current administration’s promise, however, to cut off federal grants that fund sanctuary cities is a major action. Defunding sanctuary cities has implications for many noncriminal undocumented immigrants who merely work for a better life.
According to Van Le, a writer from America’s Voice, an advocate group for immigrants and their families (2017), a sanctuary city is one that protects immigrants from deportation by not cooperating with federal agents. In response to heightened immigration enforcement, several cities have taken on the sanctuary city status. Just a few months ago, Oxnard passed a resolution that coined it a safe city. Although it is a step forward in advocacy, the process was a controversial one. Now we are faced with the task of preserving this status and possibly extending it to other cities within the county.
If I haven’t piqued your interest quite yet, or if you require a bit more convincing, let’s take the time to look at the bigger picture. Let’s zoom in and lay out the role of agriculture in our state. California itself produces over 350 commodities. It produces 33 percent of the nation’s vegetables, 67 percent of its fruits and nuts, and 90 percent of its strawberries. Yes, all those strawberries that are grown in the fields surrounding our homes are 90 percent of the nation’s supply.
More astounding is the information regarding farmworkers in the state. It is claimed that California is home to 30 percent to 50 percent of the nation’s farmworker population. These percentages amount to about 650,000 individuals, 75 percent of whom are undocumented. After applying the percentages to the given population, an estimated number of 487,500 farmworkers in California are undocumented. These statistics are remarkable; the country’s major source of food is harvested by a majority of people who are not considered citizens.
Now before you head to your car and just drive past all the farmworkers, take the time to really picture the impact that stricter immigration legislation may have on these individuals. Think about the effect it will have one their families and our community. Consider looking past political controversy, and think about being an advocate for the hardworking individuals we see every day.
Karina Duenas is a MSW Student- USC School of Social Work.