Illegal Immigration vs. Free Trade

The Obama administration has made a move to protect swing-state Florida tomato growers from Mexican imports. Mexican tomato exports to the U.S. have grown rapidly, totaling about $2 billion a year and accounting for half the fresh tomatoes consumed during the winter months; the industry employs some 350,000 Mexicans in Mexico. The Florida farmers have seen their market share shrink and now want the U.S. government to limit the import of Mexican tomatoes.

But not the import of Mexicans. Mexican illegal aliens account for most of the workers in the Florida tomato industry, centered on the town of Immokalee. Worried that the government may get serious about ending illegal employment, the industry has been at the forefront of efforts to import unlimited numbers of foreign workers to slave away in their fields. And I don’t use “slave” to mean the captive form of labor represented by guest-worker programs. I mean actual slaves; there have been numerous slavery prosecutions of Florida tomato growers, whose exploitation of foreign workers is more brazen and appalling than any other industry in the United States.

So, the question is: Do we want to pursue the mercantilist, beggar-thy-neighbor approach of the Florida tomato growers, and import Mexican workers to pick their tomatoes, or do we opt for freer trade, and let Mexicans pick their own tomatoes and sell them to us?

Do your duty as a patriotic American — buy Mexican tomatoes.

Mark Krikorian — Mark Krikorian, a nationally recognized expert on immigration issues, has served as Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) since 1995.