How US Immigration Policy on H-2As Will Shrink the US Economy

The US Department of Agriculture’s May 2012 Economic Research Service (ERS) Report Summary conducted a study titled, “The Potential Impact of Changes in Immigration Policy on U.S. Agriculture and the Market for Hired Farm Labor: a Simulation Analysis”, to analyze the effects of large shifts in the US’s supply of foreign workers.

US immigration laws often have drastic effects for our foreign workers, and the government isn’t lenient in implementing immigration policy. Hired labor is an important facet of our economy, particularly in the US’s agricultural market. In the last 15 years, almost half of our foreign workers haven’t had the correct authorization to work in the US. Alterations in US immigration law and policy could either negatively or positively effect our agricultural production and overall economy.

The report compares a “156,000-person increase in the employment of temporary nonimmigrant agricultural workers” in the H-2A visa category; and “a 5.8-million-person decrease in the total number of unauthorized workers in all sectors of the economy, including agriculture” (ERS Report Summary), based on a 15 year projection.

If we employ the first scenario of an increase in 156,000 H-2A visas, that would raise agricultural output and exports. For example, fruits, tree nuts, vegetables and nursery products, would benefits more of the scenario’s benefits, and would increase by 1.1% to 2% output and 1.7% to 3.2% export growth. However, over the 15 years, the earnings of the agricultural workers would decrease by 4.4%.

If we deport 5.8 million unauthorized workers from all sectors of the economy, there would be an overall large-scale decline in output and exports in the economy. Fruits, tree nuts, vegetables and nursery products would be the most distressed areas of the agricultural market, suffering a 2% to 5.4% reduction in output and 2.5% to 9.3% reduction in exports. Long term, wages would increase fro 3.9 to 9.9 percent.

See you in my next blog.

Nalini S Mahadevan, JD, MBA
Immigration Attorney
Lowenbaum Partnership, LLC
St. Louis, Missouri

Tara Mahadevan

Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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