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Are the Trump Administration’s Immigration Policies Hurting Farmers in the US?

It is harvest time across the US. Fruits and vegetables are ripe on the fields ready for picking, packaging and distribution throughout the length and breadth of the land. And some destined for the export market. The agricultural industry in the US accounts for approximately $170 billion to the gross domestic product per annum. However, that contribution to the GDP may be under threat as US immigration laws are tightened under the Trump administration.

US farmers depend on migrants, for a large percentage of their 2.4 million farm labor force, particularly, migrant workers from Mexico. It is estimated that up to 50% of these workers are undocumented and cannot work legally in the US. That is what the Trump administration is trying to stamp out. It is clamping down on illegal immigrants. The stated purpose is to preserve US jobs for US citizens. However, few US citizens are prepared to do the back breaking jobs required on the farms. They have many other easier options available to them.

The number of farm workers has been gradually declining in recent years. States like California, Arizona, New Mexico,Texas and Alabama have been the hardest hit. In the past five years 40% of farmers have not been able to get all their labor requirements for the year in California. The situation is not better in the other states. Farmers in the citrus, grape, berries, sweet potato and other products are on the receiving end of this labor shortage. Wages in the agricultural sector have also improved in recent years. As a result of these farmers are resorting more and more to machinisation to try and alleviate the labor shortage problem.

Many immigrant farm workers are now returning to their countries of origin as they find US immigration laws to be difficult to contend with particularly as border patrols are strengthened and in some cases resulting in separation of families. The H-2A visa introduced by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 is intended to allow farmers to apply for a specific number of temporary or seasonal workers to supplement their seasonal labor requirements throughout the year and may be granted up to a full year. Farmers are feeling the pinch of increased border patrols as the number of migrant workers decline and their crops are left unharvested and rotting on the fields resulting in huge losses. It is predicted that if the trend continues, the US might increasingly be forced to supplement its food requirements via imports, despite the fact that agricultural land is availlable but cannot produce enough due to shortage of labor.

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Horrific Mass Shootings in El Paso and Dayton Exposes Loopholes in US Gun Control Laws.

We the People – Constitution of the United States of America

In the wake of the latest mass shooting in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, in which 22 and 10 people respectively, were killed, the question arises whether gun control laws in the US are adequate to prevent persons who are unfit to possess firearms from being in possession of such arms. Statistics have shown that 8 in every 10 Americans are in lawful possession of a firearm. This is a very high number when you compare it to what the position is in other countries. This high number of firearms in the hands of citizens would not be an issue if there were no incidents such as the ones in El Paso and Dayton. If citizens were handling their firearms in a responsible manner, then no problem. However, that is not the case in the US today. The frequency of mass shootings has gone out of proportion. The people rely on the Second Amendment to the US Constitution and was ratified by Congress on December 15, 1791 as part of the Bill of Rights. This provision in the Bill of Rights was influenced by the English Bill of Rights of 1689. The amendment was ratified by the States and authenticated by the Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson, and reads as follows:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

The English settlers at the time viewed the right to bear arms or raise militias as important for one or mire of the following reasons, namely:

  • to enable the people to organise a militia,
  • the right to self defence,
  • to repel an external invasion,
  • as security against a tyranical government,
  • to enable the citizens to participate in law enforcement,
  • to suppress insurrection including slave revolts.

Today, the United States, with almost 330 000 000 million people, and one of the best trained and equipped army and police force in the world, those concerns raised by the founding fathers appear to have lost their validity and yet the country has held onto the provisions to its own peril. In Dist of Columbia v Heller (2008), the Supreme Court affirmed that the the right belongs to the individual, exclusively for self defense in the home and that the right is not unlimited and does not preclude the the existence of certain prohibitions such as those forbidding the possession of firearms by felons and mentally ill persons. Although there is a certain measure of screening and checks and balances when people apply for permission to purchase a firearm through a licensed weapons’ dealer there are loopholes in the system to such an extent that 1 in 5 firearms transactions are finalized without necessarily going through the screening process.

According to the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives), anyone can sell a gun without an FFL (Federal Firearms License) from their home, online, at a flea market or at a gun show as long as he or she is not conducting the sale as part of regular business activity. One example would be someone who sells a firearm from his or her personal collection. Others who are exempt include those giving guns as gifts. Only individuals whose “principal motive” is to make a profit via sale must obtain an FFL. 

Commonly referred to as the “gunshow loophole,” this ambiguity also explains how a purchase can occur without a background check — and without breaking the law. A 2017 survey by Harvard and Northeastern universities estimates that roughly one in five transactions occur without a background check.

Scene of a mass shooting

Perhaps the United States can learn something from those countries with very strict gun control legislation. In South Africa, for example, licenses to possess a firearm are controlled by a single central registrar within the police department and only one licence to possess a firearm for self defense purposes can be issued . No licence for an automatic or semi-automatic weapon can be issued for self defense purposes. As a result there are very few legal firearms in private hands. Penalties for illegal possession of a firearm are very stiff . Although criminals do acquire illegal firearms and use them in the commission of crimes, they know that if they are caught, they will have to answer for both the crime committed and the possession of the illegal firearm and ammunition. This serves as a deterrent as people know that the punishment for the unlawful possession of a firearm is harsh. On the other hand, in the United States, there has been several mass shootings in several states where a number of people lost their lives or were injured leaving them with both physical and emotional scars. The reasons appear to be disillusioned youth, mental illness, workplace conflicts, as well as family disputes. President Trump has vowed to bring an end to the scourge of violence in the USA. We hope that this happens sooner before another mass shooting happens.