Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Politics

PolitiFact: Fact-checking Marco Rubio's immigration claims

One reason the United States needs immigration reform is to bring in more farm workers, says U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. Rubio is supporting an immigration proposal unveiled last month by a bipartisan group of senators.

Rubio has been defending his framework to conservative audiences, including a Jan. 30 column for the website RedState.com.

"Agriculture has always required a significant workforce from abroad, but we do not have a system through which growers and dairies can bring a workforce legally into the U.S.," Rubio said.

We decided to check his history, as well as if there's a system for bringing in workers now.

Foreign workers

Over the past 15 years, about half of hired workers employed in U.S. crop agriculture were unauthorized, according to research based on the U.S. Department of Labor's National Agricultural Workers Survey.

Rubio's office sent us reports from government agencies and researchers about the history of immigrant workers in agriculture. Most notably, there was the Bracero program, which brought in temporary farm workers mostly from Mexico between 1942 and 1964, peaking at almost a half-million workers.

Braceros primarily farmed vegetables, fruits, cotton and sugar beets, and they were concentrated in seven states: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Michigan and Texas. By the 1960s, mechanization reduced the need for these workers for some crops.

We interviewed historians who said it is difficult to generalize about the agricultural workforce, because it differs by time period, location and type of farm.

Paul Conkin, a Vanderbilt history professor emeritus, said that Rubio's claim "is either completely wrong or misleading."

"Through most of our agricultural history, the workforce largely consisted of farm owners, family members, or one or two hired hands from the neighborhood," he said. "Only since World War II have migratory workers become a major component of farm labor."

Several of the historians we interviewed noted that in the South, farms relied on slave labor and later sharecroppers, and many of those people were born in the United States.

System in place?

As for the other part of Rubio's claim, the United States has a system to allow farmers to hire seasonal workers: the H-2A visa program. But it has been widely criticized as inadequate.

Farmers apply for certification from the Labor Department to ensure that U.S. workers aren't available. Employers then submit a petition to the Department of Homeland Security to bring in foreign workers. Foreign workers then apply for visas from the State Department.

Employers must meet a list of requirements, including providing workers with housing, transportation, and workers' compensation insurance.

The number of H-2A visas have soared from about 6,500 in 1992 to about 55,400 H-2A visas issued in 2011, based on preliminary data.

Despite that growth, the program is small relative to total farm employment. For example in 2007, (the most recent Census of Agriculture from the U.S. Department of Agriculture) there were about 2.6 million hired farm workers and about 50,800 H-2A visas granted.

"Critics of the H-2A program cite the low levels of participation as evidence of the program's inadequacy to meet the needs of U.S. agricultural employers," the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service said. "Others, however, attribute the program's low utilization to the availability of unauthorized workers, who are willing to work for lower wages than legal workers."

Many farm groups and a bipartisan group of senators, including Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., have complained that the process is too difficult and doesn't provide enough workers.

Our ruling

In fact-checking Rubio's comments, we found that he overgeneralized when he suggested that throughout American history, all types of farms needed foreign workers. Also, contrary to Rubio's claim, there actually is a system for growers to legally hire foreign workers. However, many farmers have complained that the visa program is inadequate, cumbersome and in dire need of a makeover. Overall, we rate his statement Mostly False.

This article has been edited for print. To read our full version go to www.politifact.com/florida.

Comments
Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Explain this to me: In the world of partisan politics, how is being an independent thinker a bad thing? When it comes to general elections, we seem to like rogues and mavericks. We want outsiders and swamp scrubbers. Folks appreciate a good finger-...
Published: 05/22/18
‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump lashed out Sunday at "the World’s most expensive Witch Hunt," trashing a new report in the New York Times that said an emissary representing the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates offered help...
Published: 05/20/18
Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan pushed a radical idea on Twitter: Parents should pull their children out of school until elected officials pass stricter gun control laws.His tweet came hours after a shooting rampage at a Houston-area high scho...
Published: 05/20/18
China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

WASHINGTON - China offered to boost its annual purchases of U.S. products by "at least $200 billion" Friday as two days of talks aimed at averting an open breach between the two countries ended in Washington, a top White House adviser said.Larry Kudl...
Published: 05/19/18
Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

TAMPA — A concert organizer is accusing Hillsborough County Commission candidate Elvis Piggott of falsifying a contract and prompting the headline act to pull out of a gospel show.In a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court, Corey Curry claims h...
Published: 05/18/18
Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

WASHINGTON - The Senate voted Thursday to confirm Gina Haspel as the next CIA director after several Democrats were persuaded to support her despite lingering concerns about her role in the brutal interrogation of suspected terrorists captured after ...
Published: 05/17/18
GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

WASHINGTON — Republicans are pushing for a speedy confirmation vote as early as Thursday after the Senate intelligence committee endorsed President Donald Trump’s CIA nominee Gina Haspel to lead the spy agency. But opponents concerned about Haspel’s ...
Published: 05/16/18
Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to lead CIA, wins support of Senate Intelligence Committee

Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to lead CIA, wins support of Senate Intelligence Committee

WASHINGTON - The Senate Intelligence Committee moved Wednesday to recommend Gina Haspel for CIA director, setting up a floor vote that her opponents say will signal to the world whether the United States condemns or condones torture.The committee vot...
Published: 05/16/18
Carlton: Time for Hillsborough’s Uncle Tom Road to go — but artfully.

Carlton: Time for Hillsborough’s Uncle Tom Road to go — but artfully.

In Hillsborough County — where one of the world’s largest Confederate flags still flies near a busy interstate — you may not be surprised to learn there’s an Uncle Tom Road.The name is a flash point and a slur, shorthand for a black person who will d...
Published: 05/16/18
Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell drops out of Pinellas Commission race

Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell drops out of Pinellas Commission race

With six months to go before the Nov. 6 election, Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell on Monday dropped her bid against Pinellas County Commissioner Pat Gerard for the at-large District 2 seat.Caudell said she decided she’d better be better suited f...
Published: 05/14/18