How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Economics vs. enforcement: The long-running Vidalia onion saga

Photo by Old Shoe Woman/Flickr (Creative Commons)


Yesterday, NPR's All Things Considered examined the looming crisis in the Vidalia onion industry in Georgia, where growers of the prized sweet onions could be left without sufficient workers because of a new anti-illegal immigration law that tightens regulations for hiring labor.

But like a twice-deported immigrant, this is not the first time that Vidalia onions, grown exclusively in a small region within Georgia, have had a run-in with immigration enforcement.

The story didn't mention the political firestorm that ensued more than a dozen years ago, when immigration agents famously targeted Georgia's Vidalia onion growers. That story in the end illustrated how difficult it is for agriculture to subsist without cheap unauthorized labor - and how economics can trump the political will to enforce immigration laws when push comes to shove.

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Report: 287(g) immigration enforcement program isn't focused on serious offenders

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A Los Angeles County prisoner bus, June 2009. The county extended its participation in the federal 287(g) program in October.

The federal government's controversial 287(g) program, which partners local agencies with immigration authorities, is the subject of a new report out today from the Migration Policy Institute.

Among other things, the report echoes some of the already existing complaints about federal-local immigration enforcement in that there is not as much of an emphasis on finding and deporting immigrants with serious criminal records as promised by the Obama administration.

According to the analysis from the institute, a nonpartisan Washington, D.C. think tank whose senior staff includes former U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service chief Doris Meissner, the 287(g) program as it's being implemented "is not targeted primarily at serious offenders," with only about half of 287(g) activity involving non-citizens (mostly undocumented immigrants, but also legal residents) arrested for misdemeanor or traffic offenses.

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