Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Fewer migrant workers in agriculture, more in tech as more immigrants flock to urban centers

Agricultural communities that rely on migrant workers—especially from Mexico—are seeing a decline in immigrants, while more immigrants—many from India—are flocking to urban areas for tech jobs, Tim Henderson reports for Stateline. "Among the 10 counties with the biggest immigration gains in this decade are tech or education strongholds like Seattle’s King County, San Diego County, and Boston’s neighboring Middlesex County, home of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University."

"State Department records show people from India got 69 percent of the nearly 173, 000 H-1B visas issued last year, with 11 percent going to people from China. The number of visas is up 40 percent since 2005," Henderson writes. "Tech companies say the newcomers fill a gap in U.S.-born science and technology graduates, allowing them to keep more operations in the U.S. and create jobs for other Americans. Farmers and their advocates say the shortage of migrant workers forces them to cut production, waste crops they can’t harvest or pay more for labor, which opens the door to less-expensive foreign produce."

More than 75,000 new immigrants arrived in the Seattle area from 2010-2015, an increase of 24 percent over the previous decade, Henderson writes. During the same period the number of  new immigrants in the 11 rural counties around Seattle "was between half and 90 percent less than what it was in 2000-2005." (Stateline map: Change in new immigrants from 2000-2005 and 2010-2015)
Border crackdowns and Mexicans returning home to be with family have led to "a sharp decline in the unauthorized population of Mexicans in the U.S, from 6.9 million in 2007 to 5.6 million in 2014," Henderson writes. "There are almost daily reports of people being turned back or detained at the border, either trying to get in for the first time or returning from family visits, said Maru Mora, an unauthorized immigrant who volunteers at her Latino Advocacy office north of Seattle to help others find legal help." Mora told Henderson, “People don’t migrate the way they used to. They don’t move back and forth to Mexico like before.”

From 2002 to 2012 "the number of new field and crop workers immigrating to the U.S. fell by roughly 75 percent between 2002 and 2012, according to a report last year by the Partnership for a New American Economy, a coalition of business leaders and mayors seeking immigration reform," Henderson writes. "California was particularly hard hit by the farm labor shortage. But Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina collectively lost one in four crop workers between 2002 and 2014, while Colorado, Nevada and Utah lost more than a third of their crop workers, most of whom are immigrants."

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