Dr Sarah Taber Profile picture
Jan 20, 2018 39 tweets 8 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
In light of what's going on with #Dreamers, it's time to talk about Japanese internment.

Because the #DACA showdown is Japanese internment 2.0.
Japanese immigrants in the 19th & early 20th centuries came to the US in large part for manual farm labor in California.

Sound familiar?
Japan had much more advanced horticulture than the US at that time, so these immigrants weren't just bringing brute labor. They were bringing a lot of basic how-to's of commercial farming that built the foundation for California's success as an agricultural powerhouse today.
Japanese immigrant farm laborers American Dream'd so hard, many families were able to save money to buy their own land and start farming for themselves.
"The California Farm Bureau was quoted by The News, saying that Japanese farmers were responsible for 40 percent of all vegetables grown in the state, including nearly 100 percent of all tomatoes, celery, strawberries and peppers."

The Central Valley used to be peppered with Japanese family farms. Not anymore. What happened to them?

WW2's Japanese internment.
Japanese internment was a land grab by white farmers. Full stop.
The initial call for Japanese internment came mere hours after the Pearl Harbor bombing, from the Salinas Valley Vegetable Grower-Shipper Association.

AKA, Japanese internment was initiated by the California farm lobby.

"The average value/acre of all West Coast farms in 1940 was $37.94, whereas that of Japanese farms was $279.96... 3/4 acres of Japanese farm lands were devoted to actual crop production, whereas only 1/4 acres of all farm land in the areas was planted in crops."
Check out those numbers. Japan's farm traditions were based on maximizing use of space, so they made more $ per acre. That tends to drive up land prices. And rising land prices tend to make people whose farming skills can't keep up feel very nervous.
So. Japanese farmers' success came from having tight management skills, and that threatened their white neighbors.

White farmers had a choice: level up their game, or play dirty.
Let me reiterate: given a choice between being good at their job and lobbying the gov't to make their problems go away, US farmers chose the second option.

This is a classic move that those in the farm industry will still recognize.
"We're charged with wanting to get rid of the Japs for selfish reasons. We might as well be honest. We do."

-Austin E. Anson, Salinas Vegetable Grower-Shipper Association

They weren't even trying to hide it. Japanese internment was about white good ol' boys being jealous of successful immigrants.
There was a downside though. Remember how Japanese American farmers were growing nearly half the country's produce? And the US war strategy was "an army marches on its stomach, so we need super solid supply chains for food"?
It turns out putting most of the country's skilled farmers in jail ... didn't help with making food.

Once internment started, food shortages quickly followed.
How did the US handle that misstep? Victory gardens!

“Victory Gardens were the propagandistic answer to the chaos created by FDR’s roundup and imprisonment of 120,000 Japanese-Americans in early 1942.”

So yeah, victory gardens were less "plucky nation pitches in with the war effort" and more "oh wow we systematic racism-ed so hard that we punched a hole in the economy. Do we admit we the mistake and fix it? Nahhhh, let's foist the consequences off on civilians."
What does this have to do with #DREAMers?

Like Japanese families in the early 20th century, a lot of US immigrant population today is families that came to work on farms. And they've been here just long enough to actually get established and really start building a life.
The US was kind of ok with immigration as long as it was get in, work for really cheap, get out.

But we're at a demographic turning point where a critical mass of immigrant families have reached some upward mobility and established themselves en masse.
*farm immigrant families
And here's the part that most people don't know, unless they work in some really specific parts of the farm economy.

Most of the US thinks of "immigrant farm workers" as grunt labor. And yes, most of the brute force work on farms is done by Latinx immigrants.
But 1st and 2nd generation Latinx immigrants are also the *knowledge base* in modern US agriculture.

I'm gonna tell you guys a secret. A lot US farmers don't actually know that much about farming. They know a lot about writing checks to Latinx contractors, who know how to farm.
The US farm industry isn't just dependent on Latinx immigrants for labor. They're dependent on Latinx immigrants for knowing HOW to farm. How to manage a harvest, how to run a packinghouse, how to keep a fleet of farm vehicles running.
And I bet you money that scares the hell out of a lot of white people.

Not the farmers, funnily enough. The actual farmers tend to be a lot more at peace with it than the rest of the rural/suburban white population.
(Don't get me wrong, they still mostly voted for Trump. Even though they knew his immigration policies are deadly for farms. They vote for conservatives and just expect things to magically turn out immigration-friendly anyway.)
The thing is, farmers aren't the influential voting bloc they used to be. The new wrinkle entering the immigration debate right now, IMO, is private prisons.
Prison labor's been used in the US for manufacturing for quite some time. But it's making significant new inroads into farm labor. Especially now that it's becoming harder for immigrants to work in the US, farms are turning to inmate contracts.
Prisoners working on a farm is a little different from manufacturing. In manufacturing, folks are locked down in a building. It's pretty easy to control your workers.
But farming is outdoors and, nowadays, super mechanized.

That means to get anything done, you have to be able to give someone tools or a tractor and have a reasonable expectation that they'll use them for work. Instead of, say, murdering the foreman and running off.
You also need people with farm work experience. Farm work is an art. You just don't get productive labor out of stoners.

I say this as someone who's personally supervised convict farm crews made of people in for minor drug charges. It's... just a mess all around.
So say you're a private prisoner contractor who's looking at farm labor deals. To keep those clients happy, you need a steady stream of nonviolent criminals who are also have farm work experience.
Talkin out the side of my mouth here, but if I were them, I'd see crackdowns on migrant laborers as a fantastic business move. I might even press my congressmen to write & sponsor bills like this one.

Immigrants don't even have to commit crimes to become part of my workforce, I mean go to jail. Just be poor. Or not have their green card in their pocket during a traffic stop.

Anyway, that's my best guess as to why the GOP can't get itself together to support a bill that most Americans want. There are a lot of primary voters, and a lot of donors, who have a vested interest in criminalizing immigrants.

To connect this back to Japanese internment. Internment was pushed through by a small farm lobby that wanted the land under Japanese American family farms, sure. But they couldn't have pulled it off w/o the rest of the country's xenophobia.
Today we have private prisons whose business models look like they just kinda might depend on everyone being ok with jailing immigrants for being immigrants.

And there's enough butthurt white people with "economic anxiety" to make that happen. Maybe.
It's really encouraging how many people support #DACA. We still have the same ugly dynamics that brought Japanese internment to life. But we also have a lot of people today who know better.

Keep those calls to your reps coming, folks.

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More from @SarahTaber_bww

Oct 9, 2018
Fun fact you learn after working in ag for a while: family farms run by a man who's really into conservatism, rape culture, racism, and hating women are *the most likely to fail.*
There appear to be lots of reasons for this.

#1, running any business takes a basic level of empathy. You have to put yourself in customer's shoes enough to figure out what they want & give it to them.

Rape culture & racism teach you how to NOT put yourself in ppl's shoes.
#2, to run a business successfully you also have to be able to put yourself in your employees', contractors', etc shoes to figure out how to engage them successfully to get the result you want.

Again: hard to do that when your mentality is shaped by ... hating other people.
Read 11 tweets
Oct 8, 2018
This is interesting. This account fairly likely to be a bot- number salad after the name, interactions w other bot accounts, & a 50/50 mix of folksy farm observations & Russian talking points.
Usually when I post on political topics, it draws some bot fire. Brett Kavanaugh & removal of UNC's confederate memorial got especially botty.
But for those of you who remember the Great Tractor-Turning Incident- that was a post that got a lot of angry responses from real live humans.

Responses from real live angry humans are very different from bots.
Read 10 tweets
Oct 7, 2018
You guys I want to tell you the story of a #Resistance wedding.

No pics of the wedding itself bc of reasons that will soon become clear, so lemme paint you a picture.
Bride & groom both heavily involved in Indivisible, and there's an election in a month. So they went with a straightforward courthouse wedding.
Except it turns out courthouse weddings in Fayetteville are actually kind of complicated

1) lots of bureaucratic red tape

2) they're not in the courthouse. The magistrate who handles marriages is INSIDE THE COUNTY JAIL
Read 10 tweets
Oct 6, 2018
A buddy was handing out some apples he got from a little farm stand up in the mountains.

These local farm-fresh apples were uhhhhh coated in fungicide.
They had a light powdery coating, which *can* be innocuous- often it's just dust from the field, or an inert clay like Surround (works as a sunscreen to keep apples from getting sun scald on the tree, and repels bugs too).
But! Not in this case. Right out of the bag they had that really juicy fresh apple smell, but as soon as that wore off there was that garlicky metallic "pesticide storage shed" smell that ag folks know & love.

Also featured a garlicky metallic pesticide aftertaste. 🙄
Read 10 tweets
Oct 5, 2018
This morning #ICalledMyReps and they wouldn't pick up.

Thom Tillis has several offices in NC.

All of their phones are shut down. There's a "we just help with hurricane Florence stuff! Stay safe!" message & no way to leave a voicemail.
Which is funny, bc they were answering their phones when I called to them last week. They weren't "shut down for a hurricane that ended weeks ago" back then.
This has nothing to do with Florence. This is a communications shutdown because they *don't want to hear from constituents.*
Read 11 tweets
Oct 2, 2018

One of the farmers straight-up told @RyanLizza "if they were legal we'd have to pay them more."

If you're confused on why farmers keep voting for bad immigration policy (even though they swear they "don't agree,") that's it right there.
To your face they'll say oh, it's just so terrible that ICE is doing raids!

But if it weren't for threat of deportation, farmworkers would actually be able to fight for higher pay.

Deep down, farmers know this. If you watch what they DO, instead of what they say, that's clear.
They know their biz model can't survive w/o threat of deportation. So instead of fixing their biz model, they vote for ICE raids.

Then they cringe and fuss about how dreadful it all is.

They can't even sack up to be proper bastards about it. It's chickenshit all the way down.
Read 10 tweets

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