The economy of the Central Coast is highly dependent on an immigrant workforce, particularly for the agricultural economy. Ranking 3rd in the state, Monterey County agricultural production is valued at over $4 billion. The ag economy depends on field workers, drivers and processing plant workers. Because seasonal field work pays on average $8/hour, most field workers move on to other jobs after a decade, and the children of farm workers are encouraged to pursue other jobs.
Because of these dynamics, the agricultural industry is dependent on a constant flow of workers who are attracted to the U.S. for jobs that pay considerably more than their home countries. Federal immigration policy determines whether these workers are legally documented or not. Over half the agricultural workforce is undocumented. (Source: “Immigration Reform: What Does it Mean for Agriculture and Rural America?” by Phillip Martin and Linda Calvin, in Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy, 2010 vol. 32, no. 2, pp. 232-253).
When undocumented immigrants move out of fieldwork, they find jobs in the Central Coast tourism industry in hotels and restaurants, food service and construction. Many work as day laborers, landscapers, child care providers and housecleaners in the informal job market meeting a local market demand for their labor.
COPA leaders seek immigration reform that is consistent with the economic realities of our region recognizing our dependency on immigrant workers and therefore, providing them in exchange, opportunities to live with the rights and responsibilities of legal residency and citizenship. We seek strategies that “welcome the stranger” as articulated in the Jewish and Christian traditions of our members and recognize that God has created us in His image, and therefore, we are worthy of living with dignity, no matter our legal status.
Rev. Susan Birkelo, Lutheran Community Church
Eduardo “Ted” Rico, Center for Community Advocacy, CCA
Esperanza Nee, Live Oak Family Resource Center
Kathy Ruiz Goldenkranz, Temple Beth El
Mary Male, Peace United Church of Christ
Gaylord “Smity” Smith, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Santa Cruz
Kalyne Foster, Resurrection Catholic Church
Catalina Garcia, Alianza Charter School