How will Trump's immigration ban impact Michigan's farm economy?

Posted at 12:28 PM, Apr 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-21 12:28:23-04

(WXYZ) — Following a tweet from President Trump Monday night, announcing plans to sign an executive order temporarily suspending immigration in wake of COVID-19, many in Michigan are wondering how the order could affect Michigan's agriculture industry, approaching a vital season.

Bob Boehm, general manager for Great Lakes Ag Labor Services, told 7 Action News it's unlikely the executive order, yet to be formalized, would affect seasonal labor coming to Michigan.

"We’re continuing to bring workers in by busloads from Mexico, right now. We have them en route right now," he said.

He said because seasonal labor is not under an immigrant visa, he's not overly concerned.

"H-2A is different than an immigrant program. Immigrants are coming for citizenship or residency permanently here where the H-2A program is a temporary seasonal Ag worker program.”

Last year Michigan relied on just under 10,000 H-2A visa holders, according to Boehm.

"Everything is up in the air right now in terms of what public policy really looks like," Dr. Trey Malone, an agricultural economist with Michigan State University told 7 Action News reporter Jenn Schanz.

Any further restriction on immigration he said, even if not directed at H-2A visa holders, could still likely impact Michigan's farm economy in some way he said.

“The demand side and the supply side is going to be affected if there is some some type of massive restriction on immigration.”

Outside of agriculture, it's still unclear how other visa holders like healthcare workers would be affected by the order, or how those in the process of obtaining a visa would be affected.

We've reached out to the White House for clarification.

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