GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - Tougher government regulations on migrant workers have some local orchards stuck between a rock and a hard place.
Some farmers on the Western Slope say they're headed for a tough decision on how to staff their fields.
Talbott’s Farm Co–owner Bruce Talbott prefers his temporary Visa workers to locals, whom many farmers say don't last.
“We had 18 people show up for interviews, all who were given a job. Of those 18, nine showed up to work, five survived the first week. The last of them left a couple weeks ago, as soon as it got hot,” says Talbott.
Growers say under the Bush administration the H–2A system was more accessible, allowing farmers to hire more dependable foreign hands. Now they say President Obama has recently undone those changes.
“Such an approach demands accountability from everybody, from government, from businesses," Obama said at a press conference last week.
“The Obama rules basically erased the Bush rules and turned it back to what it had been before,” says Talbott. He says it’s made it more expensive and difficult to hire those workers.
The Obama administration has also replaced immigration raids with a campaign of audits. “Almost everybody out there in agriculture hires documented workers. What happens though is some of those documents may not be valid,” says Talbott.
Undocumented workers are then fired, leaving illegals in the country without income and farmers without hands to harvest.
“If there's no H-2A, there will be a problem for everyone. I have a family to support,” says Talbot Farm H-2A worker Ismael Hernandez.
Farmers say they face a tough decision: either hire immigrants on their own and risk an audit, or deal with a difficult and costly Visa system.
“Every year we seem to be dealing with the unpredictable. It concerns us to try to continue to use the program. I can't really tell my guys if we're gonna be able to bring them back or not,” says Talbott.
The two dozen migrant workers on Talbott's farm can only hope they’ll get the chance to work. (What bus? If it matches video but we don’t see video in a written script it needs changed. Otherwise, you need to explain the bus thing because I don’t see a reference to it elsewhere in the story.)
Reports say immigration officials audited nearly 3,000 businesses over the past year, and handed out $3 million in fines to employers who hired illegal immigrants.