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July 24, 2017
Agricultural visas for construction work don't serve our community
Updated On: May 21, 2017

A thoughtful piece from Fortunato Salamone on why importing construction workers hurts communities, especially rural ones.

High school graduation is always a major event, particularly in a small town.   Once that diploma is received, how many young people stay in the small town?

Most will move on, because there are no jobs.  Yet there are jobs, they are just not accessible to local people.

In Pecatonica, Sugar River Genetics is building a hog breeding facility.  The construction company is Alewelt Concrete of Alden, Iowa.  And where are the workers from?  Not the United States.

Alewelt received H2-A Agricultural work visas to build this facility. The work force building this facility is coming from across our borders.  Where is the opportunity for our own young people?

On their website, Alewelt boasts that they operate in 40 locations in nine Midwestern states.  A quick search of U.S. Department of Labor records shows this company with numerous H2-A visa clearances, permitting them to bring foreign workers into our own communities, under the label of “Farmworkers and Laborers, Crop, Nursery and Greenhouse” workers.  They are claiming these positions pouring concrete, assembling metal buildings and preparing construction sites need farm labor.   These are construction jobs, not farm jobs, so why are foreign workers required?

The March 2017 Illinois Department of Employment Security records show Winnebago and Boone counties with the state’s highest unemployment rate.   Surely there are local workers who can fill these positions.

There were ads taken in the Rockford Register-Star for these jobs.  One could call and apply. There was one problem though; the number listed was wrong, so anyone local calling never received a response.

President Trump came to the White House promising to restore American jobs.  So why is an Iowa company able to bring foreign “agricultural” workers into Winnebago County to work construction?   There are high school graduates who are looking for job opportunities.  Small towns complain about the outflow of young people.  Why not give these recent graduates and unemployed workers the opportunity?  Some might find a career or start their company.   They’ll never get that chance when our area, with the state’s highest unemployment, has to watch others come eat our bread.   We shouldn’t punish the foreign workers – I’m sure they are hungry too.  But let’s give our local people a first chance at employment and let’s close this very open barn door called “agricultural worker.”

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