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Illegal Farm Workers

October 07, 1994

In the article "Raisin Farmers Hit by Shortage of Workers" (Sept. 27), Harry Kubo of the Nisei Farmers League is quoted as saying, although illegal immigrants may burden the education and welfare systems, legal workers simply refuse to fill many of the manual labor jobs throughout the state. Statements to this effect have appeared regularly for years in discussions about the presence of illegal workers. What surprises me is that no one seems to see this as an indictment of the American attitude toward good, honest work of the most basic and necessary kind.

We have millions of poor people on welfare programs huddled in big city slums but no one to work in the farms. The poor are, in part, victims of circumstances beyond their control. Mechanization and dehumanization of farm work are factors in the equation. Overmechanization and distorted ideas about what constitutes respectable work are part of the problem. But whatever we do, if we are to survive as a nation, we must disabuse people of the notion that American citizenship is a graduation certificate from the rank of worker to the rank of welfare recipient.

The effects of agribusiness and the fading away of farm communities need to be scrutinized. Efficiency experts and social scientists should work out a better balance between production needs and humanistic considerations.

WILLIAM T. MARSHALL

Venice

Harry Kubo's upset there's not enough labor to harvest crops. He states that many illegal immigrants are not available for work this season. Why would any farmer even consider hiring an illegal immigrant? What does the word illegal suggest to them?

Kubo's argument that legal workers won't perform this type of work just won't wash. Solution: Pay legal workers a living wage. If a decent, living wage was paid, Kubo and his farmer friends would be turning away legal workers. If prices of goods go up, the consumer is not forced to buy. Eventually the market will adjust itself.

Kubo claims 50% of the work force in his area is illegal. If so, let's turn the INS loose. Substantial mandatory jail time should be afforded these people who knowingly hire illegals.

ROBERT SENNETT

Sylmar

Regarding raisin farmers finding a shortage of laborers due to the Proposition 187 debate, I have a suggestion where they, and all other employers of illegal immigrants, a.k.a. cheap labor, can find manpower plus help our society in general.

I suggest that the governor and the prison systems organize crews of workers drawn from the pool of nonviolent state criminals. In that way prisoners would be contributing to the debt they owe society for their crimes and their incarceration, plus providing cheap labor for jobs now being filled by the illegal immigrants.

ROBERTA LAUNE

Los Angeles

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