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Michigan farmers say they can handle one day, but a week without immigrants would “cripple us"

Feb 16, 2017

Apples and immigration documents. Soybeans and border walls. Today is a “Day Without Immigrants,” and a number of Michigan farms are quieter than normal.

Businesses of all kinds are closed across the country as immigrants stayed home from work and school in response to President Trump’s immigration policies.

This “Day Without Immigrants” reaches not just factories and restaurants, but Michigan’s farms, where migrant and undocumented workers make up a large percentage of the work force.

“Our help did not show up to work today,” said Denny Heffron of Heffron Farms in Ionia County. “And I think this is the first time ever that they didn’t show up for work. So I guess that’s how important it was to them.”

He said these workers are “great employees to have.”

“These people, all they want to do is work,” he said. “They don’t want to be harassed. They just want to work. They don’t want to cause trouble or anything and they’re scared to death right now…”

Rob Steffens of Steffens Orchards in Sparta agreed with Heffron. Some of his migrant workers asked for the day off today in support of the “Day Without Immigrants."

“They’re just so hard working and they are here every day,” he said. “They just want to contribute.”

Heffron said Michigan’s economy depends on these workers.

“I’m here to tell you right now, the jobs my guys do, they’re not taking them from anybody because there’s nobody that would do it,” Heffron said. “I don’t care if you’re growing pickles or whatever; nobody here is going to pick pickles … you just cannot find anybody local that can do that. And these people have such a desire, because this is the land of opportunity.”

Heffron said he’s lucky to have the workers he does.

“They had one day here that they didn’t show up to work,” he said. “You know what, we’re going to get over that really easy, but I’ll tell you what, I’ve said all along if they all stay home for one week, it’ll just about cripple us. They are such a part of the workforce and so depended upon that it would not take very long.”

And he said it’s not just agriculture that would suffer.

“You can go to any industry and it’s the same story,” he said. “The contractors, the landscape people, the restaurants, the hotels – all of that. We’re all in the same boat. We cannot find good, reliable help local.”

For more from Heffron and Steffens, including what type of immigration reform they would like to see, listen above.

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