Republican Arkansas Sen. John Boozman lobbied for low-wage Mexican foreign workers on behalf of a personal friend, emails obtained by The Daily Caller reveal.
A Boozman staffer, Rebecca Caldwell, emailed the U.S. consulate in Monterrey, Mexico to ask for 80 workers needed for a farm in Arkansas. The emails were obtained through an open record request by the Immigration Reform Law Institute and provided to TheDC.
Caldwell wrote in a May 28, 2015 email that she is contacting the consulate “on behalf of my constituent Doug Gillam of Gillam Farms of Arkansas, INC.”
“The senator has asked that I reach out to you regarding this issue as he is personal friends with [redacted],” Caldwell added.
Boozman’s office did not respond to a press inquiry about who this personal friend is. However, Gillam owns the farm alongside his brother, Jeremy, who is the Speaker of the Arkansas House of Representatives.
Caldwell wrote that Doug Gillam needs 80 workers and said “this is urgent.” The emails did not include replies from State Department officials about Gillam’s success in getting the low-wage workers.
The email from Caldwell referenced an I-129 petition, which is for nonimmigrant workers. The 80 workers Doug Gillam “needed” would’ve likely received H-2a visas, which are for temporary or seasonal farm workers.
Jeremy Gillam previously told The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in an interview that his farm’s blueberry crop will die on the vine without enough low-wage foreign workers.
“They’re professionals,” Gillam said. “They’re just so used to doing it. It’s what they do. They’re phenomenal at what they produce. For us, it’s what makes all the difference in the world in terms of staying competitive.”
The necessity of these foreign workers, however, might be due to a lack of innovation caused by large farms’ reliance on these laborers.
The Center for Immigration Studies’ Mark Krikorian testified in a Senate hearing in 2005 that “starting in the 1950s in Australia (where there was no large supply of foreign farm labor,) farmers were compelled by circumstances to develop a laborsaving method called ‘dried-on-the vine’ production.”
“This involves growing the grapevines on trellises, then, when the grapes are ready, cutting the base of the vine instead of cutting each bunch of grapes individually. This new method radically reduces labor demand at harvest time and increases yield per acre by up to 200 percent,” Krikorian added. “But this high-productivity, innovative method of production has spread very slowly in the United States because the mass availability of foreign workers has served as a disincentive to farmers to make the necessary capital investment.”