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Immigration Law

Who will pick Washington's apples?

"On any given day in October, weather permitting, about 45,000 workers are needed to harvest Washington’s tree fruit. If all goes well, before the snow falls they will have picked about $1.5 billion worth of food. That’s for apples alone, and perhaps an underestimate. This is a big, important business. ... Washington must import harvest labor, a lot of it, and this year it has not been easy. The summer was cool, the harvest late and winter early. The peak of harvest is compressed and, if they can get the fruit off the tree, the crop may be a record-setter. The demand for workers has exceeded supply to a degree that has surprised the fruit industry and prompted Gov. Chris Gregoire to declare a crisis. ... All this comes up for discussion because nearly three quarters of those 45,000 harvest workers are, by estimates, [unauthorized] aliens. You could arrest all of them, double the prison population and get close to filling the need for harvest workers with inmate labor. That might be an answer to some people’s dreams. There are presidential candidates who would prefer they be shot or electrocuted as they cross the border, before they could sell their labor to Washington’s orchardists. If they could do it, that would leave most of $1.5 billion hanging on trees. That’s just in this state. Tell me again, why would that be a good thing?" - Tracy Warner, Editorial Page Editor, Wenatchee World, Nov. 3, 2011.