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ImmigrationHow Trump’s deportation plan threatens America’s food and wine supply

By Justine Vanden Heuvel and Mary Jo Dudley

Published 5 December 2016

Mass deportations of up to three million undocumented immigrants are expected to begin in January, when President-elect Donald Trump takes the oath of office and begins to turn his campaign promises into government policy. While Trump claims criminals are his primary target, reports suggest there aren’t enough of them to actually reach his goal. A prominent migration think tank estimates that only 820,000 undocumented immigrants have been convicted of a crime. So that means Trump would have to deport several million immigrants without criminal records to reach his goal. These people work in a range of industries, accounting for about 16 percent of those employed in agriculture, 12 percent in construction, 9 percent in hospitality, and 6 percent in manufacturing. So while kicking felons out of the country is justifiable, it seems to us that deporting the law-abiding undocumented workers who help drive our economy by undertaking jobs that Americans refuse to do is not.

Mass deportations of up to three million undocumented immigrants are expected to begin in January, when President-elect Donald Trump takes the oath of office and begins to turn his campaign promises into government policy.

While Trump claims criminals are his primary target, reports suggest there aren’t enough of them to actually reach his goal. A prominent migration think tank estimates that only 820,000 undocumented immigrants have been convicted of a crime.

So that means Trump would have to deport several million immigrants without criminal records to reach his goal. And that’s likely just a start, given Trump’s promise to deport all 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States.

What he doesn’t seem to realize is how integral undocumented workers are to America’s food supply. Our scholarship at Cornell combined with research in other areas of agriculture reveal the significant impact his plans would have on the foods we eat and beverages we consume each and every day.

Who’s in the net
To meet the stated goal of two to three million deportations, law-abiding undocumented immigrants will likely be caught up in the net. These people work in a range of industries, accounting for about 16 percent of those employed in agriculture, 12 percent in construction, 9 percent in hospitality, and 6 percent in manufacturing.

In addition to the humanitarian and logistical issues associated with such a massive deportation, there’s another problem: The American economy relies on these industries and all the people they employ. If all undocumented workers were deported, our economy would be 3 percent to 6 percent smaller.

But the impact on agriculture and related industries, which account for 5 percent of U.S. GDP, is the most alarming, in part because about half of farm laborers are undocumented. They are the ones who toil in the fields and barns to produce the foods and beverages that are integral to the well-being and cultural fabric of our nation, despite the fact that they often can’t afford to purchase the products they help produce.