Palin’s apple picking lesson: It’s about immigration, not China

October 31, 2008

NEW PARIS, Penn. – What is the biggest competition for an apple orchard owner in rural Pennsylvania?
Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin thought she knew the answer when talking to Matthew Boyer of Boyer Orchards.
“So is your competition imports from China?” Palin asked Boyer, as she stood in a barn in front of bushels of all different kinds of freshly picked apples at the family-owned orchard.
Not quite.
While it’s true that China is a huge apple producer and the United States’ share of world exports continues to decline, competition from China wasn’t Boyer’s biggest concern.
Boyer told Palin he was more worried about apples from Washington state, which produces some 60 percent of the apples grown in the United States.
In fact, the issue on Boyer’s mind was immigration.
Boyer employs migrants to pick his apples, and it is becoming harder to find people willing and able to do the work.
“We need workers. We can’t get any local person for it. It’s hard work,” he said.
“It’s increasingly difficult to find legal help. People don’t understand this immigration issue.”
Palin quickly turned the conversation to one of her preferred topics — the need to cut taxes, especially for small business owners.

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Of course Palin changed the subject when the apple grower indicated that he needed immigrant labor to pick his apples. First of all, she would not have been able to engage him in an intelligent discussion of the topic since his position varied from her pat answers. Second, it is not the desire of U.S. politicians nor the political system to entertain views which differ from the given wisdom, which is in this moment that something must be done with them darn foreigners who are destroying our way of life and our values. The fact of the matter is that the U.S. government and U.S. business have long facilitated the entry of immigrant labor from Latin America into the U.S. When I issued visas at the U.S.-Mexico border in the 1990s, it was the defacto policy of the U.S. government to issue visas to 80% of applicants, despite knowing that a significant percentage would remain in the U.S. working. At the same time U.S. businesses have long recruited labor in Mexico and have been implicated in assisting their undocumented entry. Personally, I believe every undocumented person in the U.S. at this time, with the exception of dangerous felons, should be legalized immediately. I know thousands and they are nothing other than good, hard working human beings contributing to the personal well-being and that of the communities where they live and this nation as a whole. If after legalizing those here already the U.S. chooses to close its borders and its heart, so be it. We are increasingly a pariah state and such policies will only contribute to that reality.

Posted by David Brookbank | Report as abusive

Sarah Palin is clueless. Wrong choice for a VP candidate.

Posted by Michael | Report as abusive

Immigration is a truly complex issue even more so than oil/energy which is really simple because we just don’t have enough and it’s easy for all the politicians to say we need to be energy independent. Which is entirely different than the immigration issue, but the average American has been stirred to racism and bigotry as opposed to the very real and pressing problems of our farmers need for reasonably priced labor to prevent their crops from rotting in the field. But just wait until the produce price really begins to rise those that are full of hate against the immigrant will complain the loudest about the high price of fresh fruit and vegetables.

Posted by renard | Report as abusive

On this issue in particular, it’s interesting that Senator John McCain co-sponsored a bill and is still the leading proponent of immigration reform that would allow more foreign workers to cross the border and get work permits to work in this type of activity. Since Senator Barrack Obama has not presented a clear position in this issue, Governor Sarah Palin could have been much more sympathetic to Mr. Boyer’s situation as it presented an opportunity to clearly and positively differentiate the Republican ticket from the Democrat.

Posted by Armand | Report as abusive

re: David Brookbank:

To put it simply, YOU ARE NUTS!

The illegals cost us, the taxpayers, more than 100 billion dollars per year to educate, medicate and encarcerate those that should not even be here. Their contribution to this country is nothing more than huge leech sucking the lifes blood out of this country.

You tell me, why do I have to press 1 for English?
Why are there signs in Spanish in our stores?
Why do I get my phonebook in Spanish?
Why are the labels on everything I purchase in Spanish?
Why can’t someone get a job unless you speak Spanish.
Why do I have to wait in the emergency room which is filled to the gills with illegals?
Why is my election ballot written in SPANISH??? If you are a U.S. Citizen and elegible to vote you are required to have the basic understanding of the English language.

I could go on and on but will stop here for now.

Take you bleeding heart and anti American attitude and move south of the border. This country will not miss you.

Posted by Steve | Report as abusive

A lot of Americans would like to pretend that they do not benefit from illegal immigration, but the fact is foreigners pick our crops because actual Americans which were born here do not want those jobs. The agri-business depends on hard working foreigners (legal and illegal) for its profits. Get rid of them and the food will go unpicked and prices will rise. Farmers and persons living in agricultural communities know this.

The only way we can deal effectively with issues is to address them head on and Palin does not know how to do that. You have to be willing to get in there and listen to people, their concerns, the reality of a situation. America needs leaders that can listen, seriously consider complicated topics, and formulate an intelligent answer, not just change the subject when it becomes uncomfortable.

Posted by Carolyn B. | Report as abusive

The problem for the extreme right wing which currently rules the GOP (I am a Republican) is that they have cynically used immigration as a wedge issue, stirring up fears and hatreds towards anything “different”. Having thus used the lives of millions of human beings as chips in their political game, they find it very difficult to turn their rhetoric around to match reality. That’s if they even have the ability to see what is inches in front of their face.

I would be the last to argue against tough border enforcement. It seems to be working and numbers of new illegal immigrants are way down. However, that is only half of the solution. It is long past due to work out the other half of immigration reform: what to do with the undocumented workers already here, and how to best provide seasonal labor where and when it is needed.

Posted by Marcos El Malo | Report as abusive

In my field (scientific research) the US is totally dependent on immigration, foreign students who can stay here and work and many do form their own companies. Think Intel, one of the founders is an immigrant, a former refugee.

The recent arguments over illegal immigrations, plus the knee jerk reactions over any foreign visitors regardless of their purposes, will seriously hurt US competitiveness in the coming decades. If letting some illegals is the price to pay for welcoming the best and brightest from the world over, let them come on in.

Posted by robert | Report as abusive

You couldn’t have said it better, David Brookbank.
Thank you.

Posted by Vicki Hillegass | Report as abusive

Armand: The problem is that Palin is unable to clearly present a position on a complicated issue such as immigration.


Posted by JK | Report as abusive

re: steve

America is an immigrant country. There is no such language as ‘American’ so that you know.

Secondly, the belief that anyone that disagrees is anti-american really shows the extent of ignorance in certain people.

Posted by anthony | Report as abusive

The apple grower may not be aware of many alternatives to hiring illegal aliens, and there’s a time and place for such discussions. Really, few people have thought it through so why embarrass him and many others for not realizing that there are thousands of students and unemployed in this country who could pick an apple rather than stand in line for a hand out. S.Palin — nice work for not putting Mr. Apple grower in the position of pleading ignorance.

Posted by Pauline | Report as abusive

Start paying proper wages to people and then you’ll find workers.
It’s greed that’s causing the shortage.
$3 an hour or whatever silly price minimum wage is over there is ridiculous.

Posted by sine | Report as abusive

Steve, south of the border IS America. Mexicans are Americans. Columbians are Americans. We live in the United States of America. I happen to be a Missourian, and as such, I am also a citizen of the United States of America. Those that live south of the border have as much right to refer to themselves as Americans as you do.

Posted by missourian | Report as abusive

Sine & Pauline – Please decline to comment when you know nothing about farm workers. As an agricultural employer in a different state, we pay well above minimum wage – up to $10/hour to hire agricultural workers. We’ve had non-hispanic labor who took these jobs – for about 2 weeks maximum. Students? You must be kidding – manual labor is a foreign concept for most of them. The unemployed? Been there done that.

Posted by gail | Report as abusive

Palin could also have inquired about health care for his workers, and how he’s doing there?

John McCain’s health care plans will destroy employer-based health insurance (says the US Chamber of Commerce).

For the millions of Americans that have it, that insurance is worth about $12,000. a year! After destroying this, McCain will offer instead $5,000. in tax credits! That’s $7,000. per family per year that McCain’s plan will steal from American families.

Even worse, McCain’s plan will throw us out of group plans, and group insurance rates, and instead force us all onto the market as lonely individuals, with no market power, facing the powerful, unregulated health-insurance industry giants.

And anyone with a precondition will not get any insurance coverage at all, as is the case today with individual policies!

Who will benefit from the McCain Plan, may I ask?

In fact, the only choice for people:

who now have employer-based health insurance, or

who want a comprehensive family health insurance policy they can afford, or

who want to have Medicare still around when they retire,

is to vote for Obama/Biden!

John McCain’s plans will destroy all chances for middle class people to ever get decent family health insurance coverage!

The Democrats, with Obama/Biden, are the only ones who intend to make health insurance affordable for middle class people! We need to vote for our future on Tues., Nov. 4th! and elect Obama/Biden!

We also need to elect as many down-ticket Democrats as possible to finally take our country back from the lobbies and special interest groups who have been running things under Bush/Cheney/McCain.

(* read the full WSJ article at: 5846605217.html)

Posted by fbla1805 | Report as abusive

You tell me, why do I have to press 1 for English?
Why are there signs in Spanish in our stores?
Why do I get my phonebook in Spanish?
Why are the labels on everything I purchase in Spanish?
Why can’t someone get a job unless you speak Spanish.
Why do I have to wait in the emergency room which is filled to the gills with illegals?
Why is my election ballot written in SPANISH??? If you are a U.S. Citizen and elegible to vote you are required to have the basic understanding of the English language.

I could go on and on but will stop here for now.

Man, if you’re not a Native American then you or your family are/were immigrants at one time. Or maybe that doesn’t count since you’re a white man. We are a country of people that was not from here to begin with and we will continue to be forever. Grow up people.

Posted by Floridafish | Report as abusive

First of all, the question was not about immigration, it about growing his business. Now as business owner Palin was correct to assume his business was struggling because of the recent flood in imported produce from CHINA. Secondly, if his business has fewer taxes to pay he can PERHAPS hire non-immigrant workers because he has the incentive to pay them more. Lastly, who has taken the lead on reforming immigration in this country, endured the ire of his own party – John McCain.

Posted by mindnbody | Report as abusive

Palin did not change the subject, it was the blinders Ms. Charles was wearing that prevented her from learning a very basic lesson from Vice President Palin. Punitive taxation feeds an underground economy. Unless of course she’s afraid the house keeper that she hired should pay taxes. It takes little effort to write a fluffy article and even less to reveal your bias.

Posted by mindnbody | Report as abusive

Any student council president from a large high school or college has more executive experience and common sense than Palin. How do you like them apples?

Posted by Kate | Report as abusive

YUP! My family are immigrants but they came here legally, learned to speak English, became U.S. Citizens. They did not take one penney in any form welfare. They did not have dual countries. They were Americans! No hyphinated allegences such as Mexican-American, African-American, Greek-American, Italian-American, etc. They were completely United States of America, Americans.

They did not demand signage or ballots or anything else in their native language. Their allegance was to the United States.

For those bleeding hearts for illegals you apparantly have no interest in your country, your history, your heritage and you subscribe to the “ONE WORLD” THEORY.
I guess your next demand be that we change our currency to something akin to the Euro. Maybe an Amero or something like it.

You care not about our constitution nor our laws. You seem to be more in the anarchist group.

Posted by Steve | Report as abusive

Hiring illegal immigrants to your work is illegal in the United States. Just for your information. Question how many people would know about apple orchards to begin with unless you work in that field. I think there should be a wall put up all the way around the whole United States.

Posted by trish | Report as abusive

I don’t know why other Americans wouldn’t want the job of picking apples, unless it’s the toxic agricultural chemicals sprayed on apples.

But, if immigrants are willing to pick the apples, the least they should be able to get is health care, because the agricultural petrochemical pesticides make both them and their children seriously ill. There are basic needs that farm workers need, which farm bosses aren’t necessarily willing to give.

This is not an easy issue to discuss. But the least Palin could have done is listened to the voter’s side of the story without changing the subject, and then said, she’d think over what he had said.

Instead, Palin wants to control what is being said and heard by others. That’s not always what people want to hear and that’s why I’ll never vote for Palin.

Posted by Susan Snow | Report as abusive