When immigrants enter the United States without documentation, many look to the agriculture industry for work. A survey released today by the Pew Research Center details how unauthorized immigrants are spread through the U.S. economy, and it highlights just how dependent farms are on undocumented immigrants, and vice-versa. Nationally, 26 percent of farm workers are unauthorized immigrants, Pew found, and the share is much higher in Washington.
Among those in the state’s farming occupation — those who work on farms, as foresters, or fishers — 44 percent are undocumented workers, tied with New Jersey for the highest share in the country. As for the agriculture industry as a whole, which includes anyone who works for an agricultural company in any capacity, 35 percent of workers are undocumented, highest in the nation.
Farms nationwide are reliant on workers born outside the U.S. A 2013 White House report said 71 percent of U.S. crop workers were foreign born, making the agriculture industry one of the loudest proponents of immigration reform. The delay in deportations of undocumented parents of children legally born in the U.S. meant 250,000 farm workers no longer have to worry about immediate deportation, according to United Farm Workers.
Washington’s farm industry has the largest share of undocumented workers, but unauthorized immigrants are more populous in other sectors. Twenty-eight percent of the unauthorized labor force work service jobs, Pew’s report says, compared with 19 percent who work on farms. Washington has an estimated 203,000 undocumented residents.