The immigration issue is definitely a hot button topic these days with reports of 10’s of thousands of children crossing the border and the potential illness that they are bringing with them not to mention the people that are already here illegally. When you talk about immigration people often turn it into a political debate about how President Obama has created this problem or is overstepping his executive powers by trying to force change, or there are some that will blame former President Bush. Although I believe in our government system, it is run by humans and we are not perfect. I personally can’t stand the political debate that goes on over such a human issue no matter how it started it needs a solution. Over the last several months as I have been researching agriculture and all the things we need to know to run a small farm, immigration is a huge factor that affects our food supply and agricultural businesses.
Recently USA Today published a special edition newspaper all about the US Department of Agriculture and the many factors that affect our food system. As I read through this paper I was surprised and irritated by many of the statistics. Often times when you talk to people about illegal immigrants a standard argument is “they are taking away Americans jobs”. Maybe it is the cynic in me but I don’t see many Americans wanting a job that pays $10 per hour or less doing hard manual labor and only getting maybe 1,500 hours per year (2,080 at 40 hours/week standard for total year). Currently undocumented immigrants account for approximately seventy percent of the farm workers in the US. Unfortunately, the number of people working on farms is still not sufficient to keep up with demand and we are importing fruits and vegetables from other countries.
One of the larger articles in this paper was about the passage of the recent “Farm bill” which is now the Agricultural Act of 2014. It seems that this bill needed to have a new name because it includes everything from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to conservation funding as well as the expected crop insurance for farmers. The largest amount of money within this bill is for nutrition/SNAP benefits. This new bill has allocated over $97 billion a year towards SNAP for the 1 in 7 people that rely on this program for food. I don’t know the breakdown for who receives these benefits, but I do know that this is another system that has a lot of flaws. As I mentioned in my article How to Reduce Food Deserts and SNAP Benefits I mentioned that I applied for SNAP and didn’t receive much due to having a part-time job. In a country that has a problem with unemployment, is funding people to be able to eat and experiencing an issue with illegal immigrants (working a job that many American’s don’t seem to be willing to do) it seems that we are not focusing on how to make our country more efficient.
On Friday it was reported that Congress is once again stalled on the issue of immigration. There are multiple bills floating around ranging from $659 million to $3.7 billion to deal with the influx of children crossing the border, but no one wants to come to an agreement. As with many of the issues we have seen lately there is a game of chicken going on within our government. It seems that each political party tries to hold out until the breaking point before some compromise is miraculously reached. All of the issues that we are facing in this country are complex by themselves, but as I have found they are also interconnected. Since the focus on the issues is always separated we aren’t able to teach younger generations the cause and effect of things. The interconnectedness of immigration and SNAP benefits can be seen within the super market if you pay attention. Since 1 in 7 Americans are relying on SNAP benefits for their food needs they demand low prices, therefore the American farmer needs inexpensive labor so they hire illegal immigrants that are grateful for the opportunity to work and make any money.
Our political parties spend so much time focusing on the issue that is going to help them get re-elected and not focusing on what is best for the general welfare of the country. No matter what your political affiliation is it is important to remember that the beginning of our Constitution states:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
By separating each issue and not focusing on our country as a whole we are not promoting the general welfare or insuring domestic tranquility. As our younger generations grow it is important to teach them about personal responsibility, especially when it comes to our food system. If we can reduce the number of people that rely on SNAP benefits our government provides it can help free up the dollars needed to provide for the “common defence” of our nation and help with the immigration problem that we are currently experiencing.