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- An estimated 45,000 people cross from Mexico into Arizona daily to work in the winter vegetable industry.
- It can take up to five hours for a Mexican to travel to the border, cross it, and then return home at the end of the work day.
- The San Luis Port of Entry II handles about 40,000 commercial trucks daily. About half of those carry vegetables during the winter months.
Rodriguez touted the need for Congress to pass current immigration reform legislation, including a guest worker program for agriculture. At press time, the legislation was advancing in the U.S. Senate.
“Agriculture needs a reliable, legal source of labor to provide the nation’s food supply,” Rodriquez said.
Perhaps a greater challenge in the Halls of Congress could be a lukewarm reception by the U.S. House.
“The bottom line is immigation reform has a long way to go,” Rodriguez said. “The champagne is not on ice.”
Rodriguez hires about 2,300 workers daily during the peak winter vegetable season. About 20 percent of his workforce needs are unfilled, due to the lack of available workers.
About 70 percent of the Rodriguez’s workers live in Mexico and commute back and forth each work day.
An estimated 45,000 farm workers walk, bike, or drive through the port daily into Arizona between 3:30 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. to harvest, pack, and ship vegetables, says Rodriguez. The population of San Luis almost doubles daily as the mass of farm workers pass through the city streets.
For Mexican farm workers, travelling from home, crossing the international border, and returning home can take five hours each day. By far, the longest wait is the morning commute to the U.S. side.
Juan Carlos Escamilla, a Class XXI class member, says the crossing can take two hours by bicycle, three hours by foot, and four hours by car. Escamilla, former mayor of San Luis, is now a lawmaker in the Arizona House of Representatives.
The bus approached the San Luis Port of Entry I, the passenger area of the port, as a glimpse of daylight appeared on the horizon. The tone in Rodriguez’s voice turned serious as the group then walked by the many labor contractor busses parked near the border. The busses filled the parking lots of the Circle K, Chevron, and Arco gas stations, plus the Chase Bank and Supermarket Del Sol.
Labor contractor supervisors stood by the busses talking with potential employees while checking official documents.
People lined up at luncheras (food trucks) to purchase coffee, donuts, or the day’s lunch. It was a very busy, well-organized place.
Escamilla summed up the bustling area, “Some mornings can look like the downtown Vegas strip. It gets pretty crazy.”