Illegal immigration impacting Texas

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Illegal immigration impacting Texas

The influx of illegal immigrants crossing the Rio Grande River into Texas is a serious concern for the Texas International Produce Association, according to Dante Galeazzi, the group’s CEO and president. His office is in Mission, TX, a few miles from that famous river.

Galeazzi on Aug. 21 responded in writing to related questions from 

The influx of migrants “not in the least” does anything to improve South Texas’ ag labor needs.

“Under the asylum rules, most entries are not permitted to work while they wait for their court dates, which are 24-36 months out. Recently, a pilot program in the Humanitarian Parole Program has issued some work authorizations, but it’s under very specific terms for select candidates. Further, most of the migrants entering South Texas are being relocated to stay in other major cities or with family outside of the immediate area. In terms of agriculture, we’ve become more of a pass-through rather than a starting point for foreign workers seeking U.S. employment opportunities.” 

Texas International Produce Association (TIPA) is exploring “many different employment options, and promoting nearly every immigration bill that comes up in D.C., as well as some more novel solutions – like allowing states to create their own foreign-worker programs for asylum seekers waiting for their hearings.”

TIPA has supported the HIRE Act, the Dignity Act, Farm Workforce Modernization Act and a number of other bills. “Yes, we recognize each bill has some elements that could be improved… but we hear our Texas farmers telling us every day about their labor shortages so we join many efforts that could bring additional workers to the industry.”

Illegal immigration “impacts almost everyone that farms near the river. Large groups crossing through fields that are recently seeded can be a cost issue. Or smaller groups attempting to infiltrate harvesting crews can be a security and safety issue.  

“In the years prior to the ‘migrant caravans,’ relatively small and infrequent groups would cross and there would be little to no impact. That’s not always the case now.”

Has this actually hurt Texas produce production or is it just a distraction?

“Both. South Texas has become a bit of a theatrical political production, with rotating ‘border visits’ to see detention centers, wall construction, CBP deployments and resources, humanitarian aid endeavors, etc. Both sides could argue that the visits have produced policy changes and developed a ‘better understanding of the border situation’ … but I think only time will tell exactly how much of that understanding becomes impactful policy.”

Since the removal of Title 42 in May 2023, crossings along Texas’ southern border have dropped significantly. CBP (U.S. Customs and Border Protection) reported a 27% decrease in encounters along the southwest border in July 2023. “Crossings are still quite high though, with 183,000 encounters in July 2023, so there are still some interruptions to farming operations along the border.”

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Galeazzi says “migrant crossings can still create issues, like stoppages at bridges or POEs (points of entry) if too a big a group tries to enter without an appointment… but thankfully, CBP alongside other U.S. and Mexican authorities have done a good job of stopping those rushes.” 

Through these challenges, “bridge operations have been largely unimpacted. CBP has been very thoughtful in their approach to moving resources around ahead of potential impacts, which has prevented the limitations in staffing we experienced in 2020. This has helped trade continue to flow through in the last several years with minimal issues, and most shipments never experiencing a slowdown.”  

Galeazzi indicates the situation with unlawful entries started to get worse right before COVID, but during COVID those crossings were in the millions per year, where previously they had been in the hundreds of thousands.  

What is the source of the problem?

“It would be naïve to think I could do the ‘source of the problem’ any justice in this response. The most known are likely the economic conditions and the safety issues in Central America and parts of South America as the primary drivers of migration, but I would encourage anyone interested in learning more to do their research. Lots of points of view out there on what has caused the mass migration… and even more points of view on possible fixes.” 

Galeazzi encourages the trade to message their Congressional representatives and their senators. “Tell them: ‘Fix Agricultural Immigration Programs like H2A!!’ Our country allows a small vocal contingent to say, ‘immigrants are stealing American jobs’ and sadly uses that philosophy to drive how agricultural visa programs are created and managed. 

“Despite over a century of well documented cases of Americans choosing not to work in the fields. Despite Congress working on the issue since 1917 with the first Bracero’s program. Despite year after year of reports showing fewer Americans choosing this work, there are still Congressional reps allowing those voices to drive decisions because our voices as industry are too few. 

“It's a numbers game, because the number of voices equal the number of votes. Our industry needs to be MORE vocal from the individual growers, shippers, buyers, distributors, grocery stores, trucking companies, material providers, and so on down the line. It all starts in the fields with those workers and the more people that can tell more reps to fix the issue will get the job done.” 

Galeazzi offers this resource:  

He coaches that the trade fill in their zip code and then email their Congressional representative with a message like this: 

“Hi, my name is XXX and I work at XXXX. We do XXXX, and in order to do that our industry depends on workers in the field. A shortage of ag labor has been an issue for at least a century in this country and we need the shortage fixed NOW. Support HIRE Act, support FWMA, support DIGNITY Act, support something that will work towards fixing this issue. Need ideas? Contact or and they’ll help you and your staff. But do not let this issue go another 100 years.”

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