Undocumented workers are leaving the country, one study claims. ( The Packer )

Instead of building a wall to keep illegal immigrants out, perhaps we should construct barriers to prevent their leaving.

A recent study by the Center for Migration Studies indicates a sharp decline in the U.S. undocumented population over a six-year period.

This bit of news won’t quell the demand by President Trump for a border wall, though perhaps that is the intent of the report.

The report, called “The US Undocumented Population Fell Sharply During the Obama Era: Estimates for 2016,” includes estimates of the U.S. undocumented population for 2016 by country of origin and state of residence.

The study found:

  • The undocumented population fell below 10.8 million in 2016, the lowest level since 2003;
  • The number of US undocumented residents from Mexico fell by almost one million between 2010 and 2016;
  • Average annual undocumented population growth dropped from 15% in the 1990s to about 4% in 2000 to 2010. Since 2010, the undocumented population from most countries has declined.
  • In the 2010 to 2016 period, five major sending countries had large population declines: Poland (-47%); Peru (-40%); Ecuador (-31%); Colombia (-29%); and South Korea (-27 percent).
  • From 2010 to 2016, six of the 10 states with the largest undocumented populations had declines of more than 10%: Illinois (-20%); North Carolina (-16%); California (-13%); New York (-13%); Arizona (-12%); and Georgia (-11%). The only large state to gain was Texas (+2%).

The report said the shift occurred over a time period “that included Congress’ repeated consideration of the DREAM Act and reform bills that included legalization programs.” The decline also occurred during the establishment and implementation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the study said.

The study said the undocumented population dropped in most of the states from 2010 to 2016, with California declining by 367,000, or 13% of its undocumented population. The declines were closely related to the decline of the undocumented population from Mexico, according to the study.

“CMS’s findings provide further evidence of the historic shift in the undocumented population in the U.S.,” Donald Kerwin, CMS’s executive director said in the release. “This shift undercuts the claimed need for massive expenditures on a border-wide wall. It shows that the undocumented population has been decreasing for some time, and that the administration’s narrative of an out-of-control border is exaggerated, if not simply wrong.”

In the backdrop of the border wall debate, there is fresh controversy over Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids in California.

From the office of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., on March 5:

“Reports that at least 26 farm workers were arrested by ICE and placed in deportation proceedings last week are deeply troubling. Farmworkers are essential to California’s agriculture industry, performing backbreaking jobs that are vital to our economy.

“Workers who contribute to our country, pay taxes and don’t pose a threat to public safety shouldn’t be targeted for deportation just to score political points.

“The only way to guarantee protection for these workers is to pass my bill to provide them legal status and a path to citizenship. We must protect those who help put food on our tables.”

Check out the L.A. Times coverage of the farmworker arrests here.

Farm labor reform keeps getting harder and securing a legal workforce is perhaps the most daunting challenge the industry faces.

Along that line, I recently asked the LinkedIn Fresh Produce Industry Discussion Group about the biggest challenges and opportunities the fresh produce sector must confront. Check out the thread here. Read the comments so far and add your own thoughts.

One more thing. A closer look at farm country (population, ethnicity, migration, and more) on a county basis is available from the USDA’s atlas of rural and small-town America. Check it out here.

Submitted by Lilywhite on Tue, 03/06/2018 - 08:43

The illegal immigrants are thriving and well in NM,hundreds of thousands have occupied this state and have bankrupted the state keeping NM one of the top 5 poorest states in the US. NM has become a third world nation due to illegals colonizing the state

Submitted by Charles Rattenberg on Tue, 03/06/2018 - 17:25

US government and private study estimates show about 85K undocumented aliens in NM, about 4% of the NM population. It's likely that the other 96% of the population has a lot to do with the conditions of the state. The largest employer in the state is the federal government and the educational level of the state is among the nation's lowest.

In reply to by Lilywhite (not verified)

Submitted by Paul Pappas on Wed, 03/07/2018 - 07:45

I have read several articles in The Packer recently about labor shortages and undocumented immigrants, but I do not recall the H2a program ever being mentioned as part of the solution for farms. Is it because, it counters the premise of the articles?

Submitted by Tom K on Wed, 03/07/2018 - 09:43

The industry is leaning more and more on the H-2A program, but the question is what to do about the hundreds of thousands of undocumented workers already working on farms, some for a decade or longer.

In reply to by Paul Pappas (not verified)

Submitted by Tom on Thu, 03/08/2018 - 14:54

I've heard that sponsoring immigrant workers is a huge hassle and most farmers would rather go through a contractor.
Corporations don't mind spending the time and money to sponsor high-priced engineers, scientists, healthcare workers, and business executives but what restaurant, farm, or motel wants to do that for minimum wages workers?

In reply to by Paul Pappas (not verified)

Submitted by Victor Tognazzini on Wed, 03/07/2018 - 10:50

While deportations or the fear of them has reduced the number of undocumented or falsely documented workers, there is another looming challenge for sustaining an adequate labor pool for entry level workers in agriculture, service and hospitality industries in the United States. Agriculture, incidentally, accounts for about 12% of those workers. The larger threat is the declining birth rate in Mexico. In the 1960’s Mexican women had a live birthrate average of about 7 children. In 2015 the rate was 2.1 average per mother. That rate whether it remains static or drops lower presages a vast reduction for future workers from Mexico. Regardless of whether the wall is competed, we stand in need of a viable guest worker program that considers other countries in the future. Great strides are being made in mechanization, but there will be a continuing need in agriculture for entry level laborers. The service and hospitality industries need to focus on solutions as well.

Submitted by Faldo on Mon, 07/16/2018 - 15:20

The H2A wasn't just designed for Mexicans. Other countries in Latin America send workers here as well. Canada has a similar program and aside from Mexico they also get workers from Carribbean countries.

In reply to by Victor Tognazzini (not verified)

Submitted by Tom on Thu, 03/08/2018 - 14:50

Farmers have themselves to blame for labor shortages. The vast majority supported Trump; did they think he was kidding when he said he'd deport all illegal immigrants?

The fact is that Americans don't do farm labor. Immigrants are the only people who'll carry 50 lb crates all day when it's 100 degrees in the shade. It's a good thing they do or we'd all be paying triple for fresh produce. Not to mention that illegal immigrants often do motel maid service, restaurant dishwashing, and slaughterhouse work.

Submitted by Victor Tognazzini on Mon, 03/12/2018 - 18:26

Tom, I have long held great respect for your writing. It has been well thought out and well presented. I think is disingenuous to place blame on farmers for labor shortages because the “vast majority “ supported Trump. I believe the vast majority supported Trump in the General Election because the alternative was unconscionable. Farmers were concerned with the brash campaign rhetoric, but felt that the legislative branch would temper that rhetoric in the law making process. All of us want secure borders and Trump struck a chord with that requirement. Timing is key to securing the border while continuing to use migrant workers to harvest crops. Agricultural associations such as the Farm Bureau and Western Growers continue to advocate for a viable program that includes border security and is more user friendly than those currently on the books. Farmers and our advocates have worked hard and continue to work hard for our labor requirements. Placing the blame on farmers Tom? You are better than that.

In reply to by Tom (not verified)

Submitted by Manuel Andrade on Wed, 04/11/2018 - 16:13

As Ronald Reagan famously said "There you go again". Disingenuous? Farmers and ranchers do have some responsibility for the labor situation situation they find themselves in today. Our history proves this. One prime example is the public record of former California farm labor contractor and GOP Congressional candidate Victor Tognazzini. Which "alternative" to the GOP Presidential candidate running in the past 40 years can Victor name that was not "unconscionable"? Can (bi-lingual) Victor knowingly say he NEVER hired an undocumented worker in that same time frame? Taking SHARED responsibility for this problem can help end it.

In reply to by Victor Tognazzini (not verified)

Submitted by John on Wed, 06/27/2018 - 11:21

Define Undocumented? Does having a drivers license make you documented? So you're still here illegally but you're "Documented". FN Awesome. Let just abolish all laws in America.

Submitted by Chuck on Wed, 07/18/2018 - 15:21

All illegals out, NOW!

Submitted by Greg on Wed, 12/12/2018 - 06:22

This guy is full of it. Where have all the illegals gone? Really. Journalists and journalism is nothing more than a bought and paid for service. Even the dems laugh at our supposed free press