Mexican farm laborers go to work in Puerto Rico while local workers receive state subsidies
Puerto Rico allows entry on temporary visas for Mexican farm laborers to work in the fields while local workers receive state subsidies.
Puerto Rico is at a critical turning point in agriculture. With crops in danger of being lost for lack of labor, some farmers have opted to bring Mexican workers to the island because Puerto Rican day laborers have preferred to receive pandemic-designated bonuses and stop working the fields.
In the municipality of Guánica, a group of Mexicans work in the Finca Gonzalez packing house, where they share the work of washing bananas and tying tomato plants to stakes. Mexican day laborers find in Puerto Rico a labor refuge during the crisis. Although local day laborers warn that $7.25 an hour is not enough, for the Mexicans it is more than they could earn in their country, even though it is the U.S. federal minimum wage.
As a result of the pandemic, unemployed citizens of the island receive a weekly bonus of $300 in addition to unemployment benefits. Such is the case of Juan Santiago, who lives near Finca Gonzalez and lost his job in February. His salary was $290 a week.
Pedro now receives $540 a week: $240 for unemployment benefits and $300 as part of the bailout plan signed by President Joe Biden.
It has somehow triggered many local day laborers to prefer not to work during the pandemic.
To deal with the local farm labor problem, a first group of 21 workers from Chiapas arrived in Puerto Rico last week under the H-2A visa program for temporary agricultural workers Hector Cordero, president of the Puerto Rico Farmers Association, told NotiUno 630AM radio last week that 1,000 to 1,500 braceros are needed on the island and that a group of Hondurans is in the process of arriving.
After the island has been hit by natural disasters in recent years, added to the health crisis situation, the situation of the flight of agricultural workers has intensified. However, economist José J. Villamil indicates that part of the problem is due to the fact that Puerto Rico is a regional economy of the United States.
"Since there is a big difference in salaries between the island and other states, it is relatively easy for a Puerto Rican worker to go to the United States and benefit from a higher salary," he wrote in the local newspaper El Nuevo Día.