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Dairy farmers, in dire need of workers, feel helpless as immigration reform sours

When Mike McMahon’s Latino employees need to go to the bank, the pharmacy or the grocery store, he makes sure someone drives them to town, waits while they run errands, and then brings them safely back to his dairy farm.

Even then, there is no guarantee law enforcement in their small, rural community won’t spot the workers, ask for their IDs, and put them on a path toward deportation if they cannot prove they are here legally. It is a risk that dairy farmers in this agricultural region have faced for years, but it is hitting them harder as immigration reform languishes in Washington and the nation’s demand for milk-heavy products like Greek yogurt soars.

“It’s just crazy,” said McMahon, who has several hundred cows at his farm more than 200 miles north of New York City.

“I’m a lifelong Republican,” he said, shaking his head. “But I’m telling you, there are days when I think about switching.”

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