A recent detention of Jesus Aceves and three fellow farmworkers he was driving to work highlights the fear in California’s Central Valley where Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) is increasing their sweep of the state’s agricultural heartland. These new sweeps are doubly concerning to both farmworkers and the farmers as those arrested were not specifically targeted by ICE. In February alone, 232 people were arrested, of which 180 had been targeted by ICE.
Farmers fear the recent sweeps will cause even worse labor shortages than those that already exist. A survey conducted by the California Farm Bureau Federation in the summer of 2017 showed that 55% of responding farmers experienced labor shortages, especially in farms where the work requires intensive hand labor.
Sadly, ICE Director Thomas Homan noted that California’s ‘sanctuary’ policies, in which the state limits cooperation between local and federal law enforcement, forces ICE to conduct even more enforcement in the communities in which undocumented immigrants live, including arresting immigrants in neighborhoods and at work sites. Additionally, Director Homan stated that the lack of cooperation between law enforcement agencies has increased the likelihood that ICE will arrest undocumented immigrants they were not even targeting.
As a result of the increased sweeps, many farmworkers have taken action to avoid being arrested. Some have altered their driving routes, many stay tuned to Facebook groups created to confirm sightings of immigration agents.
VERDICT: Though the sweep of arrests is certainly concerning, there are questions regarding how long these efforts can be sustained or even increased. A professor of agriculture and resource economics at the University of California Davis noted that it would take a huge and targeted operation to substantially harm the agricultural industry. That said, President Trump’s request to hire 10,000 new ICE agents went unfunded in the recent budget bill.
President Trump has been attacking California Governor Jerry Brown recently, so it will be useful to pay attention to that exchange. How that plays out could affect how and where ICE directs its agents.