Nick Welsh’s sarcasm about illegal immigrants snatching “lettuce-picking jobs that would otherwise be taken by the native born” reminded me of 1965. The bracero program that brought in foreign farmworkers during World War II should have ended years earlier, but politicians and special interests being what they are, the program finally ended in 1964. The next year I was a 16-year-old Arizona teenager looking for summer work, and was I lucky! The U.S. Agriculture Department was willing to hire teenagers, and even pay us more than minimum wage, to pick lettuce in Yuma.
But I never got to Yuma. The farmers there kept hiring the same foreign farmworkers, only illegally. Thus began the modern wave of illegal hiring in agriculture. Since I was unneeded in Yuma, the Agriculture Department reassigned me to another job that Arizona summer – on a road crew picking up trash for minimum wage.
Now that I’m older and wiser, I see beyond my own interests to the nation’s. In 1965, America had 200 million people. Now that it has over 300 million, Americans face an inconvenient truth: Our overpopulated country must reduce immigration, not relentlessly increase it, whether permanent or “temporary.”
Americans must shrink to a sustainable number. We must stop crowding out plants and animals that support us in the web of life, and must stop sacrificing farmland to house new arrivals. Otherwise, a lettuce shortage will be the least of our problems during the famine we bring ourselves.