Federal Red Tape Makes Hiring Agricultural Workers an Agony

So doing it legally ... not so tempting


Bernie Kohl, Jr., president and part owner of Angelica Nurseries Inc., knew something was wrong when the then-Immigration and Naturalization Service showed up on his property with buses on a fall day in 1996. The INS went into the company's offices, hung up phones, and lined workers up outside while they went into the company's Human Resources offices to get paper files on all the laborers.

"They went through the I-9s and they scrutinized the paperwork and could say that these documents don't look genuine," Kohl said. "We aren't document specialists, those are the kind of things that we can't do."

The raid resulted in around 80 of his workers being deported. The place didn't quite shut down, but it meant an incredible struggle that year to make the harvest.

That led to a long search to find reliable, legal labor, and Angelica's entrance in 1999 into the H-2A program, a federal visa program that brings migrant workers to the U.S. for the agriculture sector, but at a high cost both administratively and monetarily.