Sen. Flake: ‘I’d … Divert the Border Patrol Away From our Workers’

AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

GOP Sen. Jeff Flake is using his new autobiography to celebrate his deliberate obstruction of federal immigration enforcement. 

Flake’s parents owned a small farm in Snowflake, Arizona, where they grew alfalfa to feed their cows. Like other farmers, the family hired cheap migrant laborers from Mexico instead of paying American wages to local farmhands.

Before going to college, “my life was made far more difficult during the middle of summer when the Border Patrol would raid our farm,” Flake wrote in his new autobiography, titled Conscience of a Conservative,” which slams President Donald Trump. Flake continued:

Sometimes the Border Patrol would send small planes to search our alfalfa fields for migrants. When I would hear the distinctive whine of the Cessna [search aircraft], I’d hop on a horse, put on a hat that would obscure my head, and try to divert the Border Patrol away from our workers — a decoy in the game of cat and mouse.

The family repeatedly rehired the deported illegals once they returned from Mexico, Flake wrote. “Our mechanic Manuel was taken back to Mexico by the Border Patrol nineteen times,” Flake wrote.

Flake is also a Mormon, and sees himself as a minority in solidarity with other minorities, including illegal immigrants. He is also eager to pin a “hate” label on the public’s rational and overwhelming opposition to businesses which hire cheap foreign labor instead of Americans.

In 2012, Flake cooperated with a writer for Esquire, and explained his support for illegals to a constituent who opposed illegal immigration.

Flake took a confidential tone, working over well-trod territory. “Look,” he said. “You can get to the right of me on immigration, easily. I grew up here on a farm. We employed people — as you know, it wasn’t illegal at that point to hire. You saw a lot of seasonal migration back and forth, not the kind of thing now. But I saw what these people went through and why they were here — to work and sustain their family. And I’ve just never been able to work up hatred toward them. I just can’t do it.”

The 1986 immigration amnesty and reform law was passed when Flake was 24, and had already left his parents’ farm. The law included language making it illegal for employers to knowingly and directly hire illegal immigrants. Since then cheap-labor employers — including many farmers — have continued to hire illegals, but they rely on subcontractors to supply the labor and minimize their legal risk.

Flake is now channelling his business and minority sympathy for cheap replacement labor into opposition against President Donald Trump’s popular merit-based immigration reform. The reform, prepared with Georgia Sen. David Perdue and Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, would preserve the inflow of high-skilled immigrants while halving the inflow of unskilled chain-migration immigrants.

“You can’t cut immigration, legal immigration, in half,” Flake told NBC’s “Meet the Press” August 6.

“While I agree we ought to move in the direction of some other countries like Australia and Canada in terms of merit-based visas, the overall number cut — I think this would cut it to about half of our legal immigration — just isn’t the right direction for the economy,” Flake told CNN, adding that employers still want to hire cheap, unskilled foreign workers. He said: 

“We know very well — in Arizona, in particular — the value of migrant labor. I grew up on a ranch in Snowflake, Arizona. I grew up working next to migrant labor. I always felt they were making America better, and we are better off because of their hard work.”

Fake portrays himself as individualist — even as he downplays the hidden subsidy that his parents got by using foreign labor instead of American labor. “I grew up on a cattle ranch in northern Arizona, where conditions were spartan and life was what you made it. That experience taught me the value of standing alone sometimes,” he wrote. 

The inflow of illegals has provided a huge wave of cheap labor to the agriculture industry, but at a huge cost to local communities. The communities need to pay extra in education and police costs as each wave of illegals work for a few years on farms before migrating to cities and towns in search of better jobs. That steady flow of immigrants imposes an “immigration tax” of 5.2 percent on Americans, according to the September 2016 report by the National Academies of Science.

The agriculture industry’s reliance on cheap labor has also reduced the development and purchase of labor-saving machinery, such as machinery to pick lettuce, strawberries or apples. 

In 2013, Flake was one of four GOP Senators who allied with Democrats to push the cheap-labor-and-amnesty “comprehensive immigration reform bill.” The 2013 bill gutted the 1986 law, effectively making it legal for employers to hire illegals, until media coverage forced the “Gang of Eight” to restore the 1986 provision. Flake’s bill died in 2014, and it was so unpopular it helped the Democrats lose 10 Senate seats in the 2014 election.

Flake is up for election again in 2018, and his ratings are perilously low, showing him at 18 percent approval, 67 percent disapproval. 

Alfalfa is a plant which provides more nutrition to cows and horses that does fresh grass or dried hay. It is typically harvested multiple times per year via the use of labor-saving machinery.


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