So how was the dinner salad last night? Fresh, green lettuce? Maybe crunchy miniature carrots? Piquant cherry tomatoes?
Our impertinent questions come to mind in the wake of a visit to the Chronicle editorial board last week by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The former Iowa governor reminded us that of the million people involved in planting, harvesting and processing the fruits and vegetables we consume in this country, roughly 700,000 are immigrants. It’s no secret that the majority of those hardworking men and women – and children – are undocumented.
“The sad reality today is that as good as American agriculture is, it’s not as great as it could be,” Vilsack said, noting that farmers in the Southeast and in the West often can’t harvest what they grow, or they decide not to plant, because they don’t have a stable work force. And they don’t have a stable work force because our broken immigration system either keeps people in an unpredictable legal limbo if they’re here without documentation – even though we depend on their hard work and expertise – or the system has no way of directing documented guest workers to where the need might be.