Immigrant Workers and U.S. Agriculture Grant uri icon



  • The 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act granted amnesty to existing unauthorized workers, tightened the border control, implemented employer sanctions, and established a new guest-worker program. However, because of the lax border and domestic enforcements and cumbersome guest-worker program, the illegal population in the United States grew to about 12 million by 2004 (Martin, 2007). Due to concerns of wage depression, job loss, fiscal costs, and also national security, Congress considered several legislations in recent years to curb the growth of the illegal population. However, Congress failed to pass any immigration reforms because of disagreements over providing citizenship to unauthorized workers, and the illegal immigration issue remains unresolved. Because Congress did not reform the immigration laws, the U.S. government has drastically increased its workplace raids and border patrols. These raids have led to a severe farm labor shortage during peak operations such as planting and harvest, resulting in unharvested crops, huge losses, and even the outsourcing of farm operations to Mexico. However, the focus of the U.S. government's solutions to the illegal immigration quandary is to implement updated versions of old legislation (i.e., domestic and border enforcement, and amnesty). When implemented solely, these polices address only the symptoms of illegal immigration. To reach a practical long-term solution toward solving illegal immigration problem, the root causes must also be addressed. These root causes included differences in macroeconomic conditions (specifically, per capita income gap) between the two countries, increased labor shortages in U.S. agricultural production, adverse impacts of U.S. farm policies on Mexican agriculture, and distortive trade policies.

date/time interval

  • July 1, 2009 - June 30, 2014

sponsor award ID

  • IDA01384