Arresting the workforce is not a good idea.

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Editorial

Last week we reported on two protests in Orleans County — one by a small group of citizens who wanted to say something about the treatment of children at the southern border, and the other about the arrest of three dairy farmworkers. 

We support both protests.

We abhor the treatment of children at the southern border.  What kind of country has this become that we separate children from parents and put small children in detention centers crying for their parents and receiving, at best, minimal care? 

Oddly, it seems that the political right, which so often associates itself with so called “Christian values,” has not condemned our treatment of those children.  If there was ever an opportunity to demonstrate Christian values, this is it.

Matthew 18:14 says:  “So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish.”

More than one child has perished at our southern border.

Of course, the other thing you could consider is the Golden Rule:  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” 

You could ask yourself if you’d like your children, or grandchildren, to be treated the way this country is treating other people’s children.

Several of us here have grandchildren, and we’re positive that, if their parents were fleeing a dangerous situation, we would not want them to be locked up, dirty, or sleeping on concrete. 

These children are no threat.  They’re children.  Their families are largely seeking asylum in this country.  They may or may not get it, but meanwhile we have an obligation to act humanely. 

As for dairy farmworkers, really?  Dairy farmers aren’t having a hard enough time without losing their workforce — Central American or Mexican workers who are willing to work long hours for the wages that already strapped farmers can afford to pay? 

There seems to be some misconception that immigrant workers are taking jobs away from American citizens.  The well documented reason that dairy farmers have been hiring immigrants is that they can’t find local citizens willing to reliably do the work they need done. 

That’s not even a problem limited to dairy farmers.  This state has an odd program called Stay to Stay, where the state invites people to come for a weekend, visit businesses, investigate jobs, housing and daycare, then pays moving expenses, with a cap, if they relocate to Vermont. 

And the reason it has that program is that Vermont is short of workers. 

Central American immigrants aren’t going to be invited for Stay to Stay.  But it’s long been no secret that dairy farmers can’t find good help, and that most dairy farms of any size these days are still in business because of Mexican and Central American workers.  They’re not taking jobs away from American citizens; they’re filling jobs that American citizens aren’t.  Their work is vital to dairy farms.

This country should come up with a realistic guest worker program. 

It needs a sensible immigration policy, of course, but a start would be to allow people to legally hold the jobs that keep farms going.  It’s flat ridiculous that the men and women who sustain Vermont’s vital dairy economy must remain furtive and are at danger of arrest any moment, leaving a farmer wondering how in the hell he’s going to get his cows milked tonight. 

How hard can it be to recognize the need and come up with a sensible solution?  

We can’t figure out what sense it makes to prevent people who are gainfully employed keeping segments of Vermont’s economy alive from working here.  Come up with a sane guest worker program and stop this counterproductive nonsense that benefits absolutely no one. 

If you want to nail the coffins into the casket, arresting dairy’s workforce is sure to be effective.  — T.S.

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