Immigration Changes Could Impact Local Farms & Colleges

Immigration Changes Could Impact Local Farms & Colleges

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This week, the Department of Homeland Security was instructed to strictly enforce U.S. immigration laws and President Donald Trump is expected to replace his controversial travel ban for travelers and immigrants from seven mostly Muslim countries. These moves could affect north country farms and colleges.

Many New York farms rely on workers from other countries to fill positions. With President Donald Trump's crackdown on immigration, farmers fear what could happen to those workers.

"Not only potential scare off some farm workers or make it even harder to find people to work on our farms, but also that we'll have jobs that will go unfulfilled,” New York Farm Bureau spokesman Steve Ammerman said.

Farms that produce crops or fruit can hire migrant workers temporarily through what's called the H-2A program. But that's no benefit to farmers in Jefferson County, which has mostly dairy farms.

Hiring legal immigrant workers is usually left up to the farmer.

"The farmers required to look at the documents presented and see if they appear to be legitimate and if they have that appearance then they can hire that employee,” Jefferson County agriculture coordinator Jay Matteson said.

If the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, ICE, finds that a worker doesn't have the proper documents, they can be pulled off the farm they’re working on. 

The New York Farm Bureau says that could be detrimental to the farm and the people who buy its products.

"Cows have to be milked when they need to be milked, ripe fruit has to be pulled from the tree when its ready to go,” Ammerman said. “A delay is really disastrous for the farm."

Farmers are not the only group in northern New York concerned with immigration policy. Colleges with international students continue to be affected.

"Right now all of those applicants from Iran are kind of in limbo until we understand what the travel ban will do,” said Tess Casler, who’s director of Clarkson University’s International Student and Scholar Services.

Both the president of SUNY Canton and the president of St. Lawrence University issued letters campus wide after Trump's immigration ban. 

Both colleges stressed the importance of including students, regardless of their immigration status. 

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