An estimated 50 to 70 percent of American immigrants, who harvest produce, are in the country illegally. Given this knowledge, the focus of Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been redirected to circumvent the policies of sanctuary cities in California — the state with the highest-grossing farm receipts in the country.
The VC Star of Ventura County, California profiles the scenario of when Jesus Aceves and three of his colleagues were arrested by ICE on their way to work in the tomato fields — which is an unusual, new approach being used by law enforcement.
All of them were detained at an immigration detention facility, and none of them were reported (by the media) to be in the country legally. None had criminal records, with the exception of Aceves, who had been cited numerous times for driving without a license.
Thomas Homan, acting director of ICE, said illegal immigrants "should be afraid." In a statement to the Los Angeles Times, Homan explained the new tactics of criminal targeting:
"This is a prime example of how sanctuary policies, which have pushed ICE out of jails, force our officers to conduct more enforcement in the community — which poses increased risk for law enforcement and the public. It also increases the likelihood that ICE will encounter other illegal aliens who previously weren't on our radar. It is nonsensical to demand that ICE solely focus on criminals, while simultaneously preventing ICE from arresting criminal aliens inside the secure confines of local jails."
Homan was referring to the policies of sanctuary cities who refuse to comply with standard methods of handing over illegal immigrants for deportation once they're in the custody of law enforcement.
Many experts say (and have contended for years) that American citizens are largely unwilling to work farm jobs. And it's arguably more advantageous for some able-bodied workers to stay home; on welfare, some could earn as much as $20.83 an hour without lifting a finger.
But in the fields of California, there is still a shortage of hands. Many employers utilize temporary guest workers to help out, even driving to Mexico on recruitment missions. In fact, the number of foreign laborers increased by 28 percent from 2016 to 2017 because of initiatives by business owners.
Once released, Aceves spoke at his brother's church about his ordeal, confessing, "I didn't expect this. I never thought it would happen to me."
In a caution to other members, his brother, Pastor Guillermo Aceves —who was granted citizenship under President Reagan's amnesty bill of 1986 — warned his parishioners to prepare for such a scenario. His advice was to save money to pay a bond and decide who would care for their children.
"These are things we don't like to talk about because there's so much fear. But you have to do it. You have to make a plan," Guillermo Aceves said.