A rake, a hoe and fertile ground might be all that's necessary to make a garden grow. Modern agriculture, on the other hand, requires foreign labor.

78 percent of

farmworkers are


Immigrants keep our agricultural sector moving. It's difficult, back-breaking work that pays poorly, and few Americans are willing to do the work. Using immigrant labor to work the fields seems to be a mutually beneficial approach--foreign-born workers make more than they would in a similar position in their home countries, and American farm owners get the labor they need.

But there is a dark side to the arrangement. According to Department of Labor data, 53 percent of foreign-born farmworkers lack authorization to work in the United States. It's bad policy to have so many people entering the country illegally, with no background checks or verification of identity. But it's also why proposals to deport all undocumented immigrants are impractical--beyond the difficulties involved in rounding up millions of people, farm operations would be crippled by losing nearly 35 percent of their workforce.

Work-authorization status of foreign-born farm workers