Monday, February 27, 2017

Increased deportation raids leading undocumented workers to hide; could lead to labor shortages

Increased deportation raids are leading many undocumented workers to stay out of sight as much as possible, affecting rural areas "in the largely undocumented migrant communities east of Tampa," Robert Samuels reports for The Washington Post.

For instance, workers at tomato farms and strawberry fields feel it's too risky to move to Georgia to pick peaches or to Michigan to pick peppers this spring or summer, Samuels writes. "Many thought they would now stay put. It was safer that way."

After unconfirmed reports by activists and residents that six people were taken into custody Feb. 2 "during a search for someone accused of selling fake Social Security cards in nearby Plant City, the 'Winter Strawberry Capital of the World.' The next day "the number of migrant children who stayed home from school surged by 40 percent," Samuels writes.

"Earlier this month, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency arrested 680 people across the country," Samuels notes. "The agency has also become aggressive about attempting to detain undocumented migrants who have been jailed by local authorities. As of Friday, it has issued more than 42,000 detainer requests this year, 35 percent higher than the year before. ICE described its actions as 'routine' and lambasted those who labeled them as 'raids' because nearly 1 in 4 of those arrested had no criminal records."

Similar crackdowns occurred under President Obama, but Florida activist Norma Rosalez "said people generally trusted him to target only criminals and potential terrorists," Samuels writes. "Obama also offered protection to 'dreamers'—undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country at a young age—but teenagers were now afraid to apply to the program, Rosalez said, over fears that an application would lead an immigration officer straight to their door."

Lourdes Villanueva, director of programs for the Redlands Christian Migrant Association, which runs Head Start programs for migrant families throughout Florida, said before Trump was elected "there were waiting lists for migrant children to get into preschool, but after the election enrollment dropped by 43 percent," Samuels writes. "Staff at the Head Start center in nearby Dover began stacking cabbages and bananas on flatbeds outside so the farmworkers had food to take home when they picked up their children, since many of their parents were afraid to go to the grocery store."

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