The Rotten Tomatoes of Immigration Politics: Major Penn. Farm Shuts Down

March 26, 2008

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This story in today’s Philadelphia Enquirer tells the sad, but revealing tale of one Keith Eckel, the soon-to-be former head of the largest tomato producing operation north of the Mason-Dixon Line. After decades of being the most important tomato grower on the East Coast, Eckel announced yesterday that he will be closing down his farm because he can’t find the 180 workers he needs to keep his business competitive and operational. Though successfully ignoring the plight of the workers, the story does say a lot about what many of us predicted would come about as a result of the repression unleashed on migrant workers.

“It’s a sad day,” said Eckel, who blames his woes on the lack of immigration reform. “We’re closing a part of our business that we really love.”

Eckel’s plight mirrors that of many farmers in the U.S., increasing numbers of whom find themselves living in a country where fewer and fewer natives want to work the land, a country in which gigantic agricultural and other corporate interests have hollowed out the economy and decimated the American Dream by exporting jobs. But rather than denounce, as Eckel did, the powerful interests responsible for the growers plight, many U.S. natives are drinking deadly doses of the nativist Kool Aid defining the new racial politics of the post-Mason-Dixon, post Southern Strategy moment. Minutemen, Republicans and growing numbers of Democrats and other politicos have made an industry of the politics of industrial decline.

Critical to any political strategy aspiring to reverse the anti-migrant hysteria is doing what Keith Eckel did: sling the rotten tomatoes of immigration politics at the right targets-politicos and the parasites of economic decline attached to them. Time to bust out our own radical Raid: truth backed by facts and political action like upcoming May 1rst (May Day) actions.

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