Immigrant workers play a big role in the Lowcountry’s economy

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)– Immigration played a large role in the most recent presidential election. Many people are hoping for a more secure border and almost everyone is pushing for immigration reform.

So we spoke to Lowcountry employers and employees to find out what role they think immigrant workers play in the community.

Rebecca Arroyo’s parents moved from Mexico to the United States more than 30 years ago. Since their arrival her father has worked a number of jobs; she says he first started working in the agriculture business and then went into the construction business.

“It is really hard, it is really stressful, it’s hot. They start working at 6 a.m. and they don’t come home till 9 p.m. They work from Monday to Saturday. That’s is a six day week,” said Arroyo.

The construction industry and agriculture field are largely supported by immigrant workers.

“Because there are no available workers to fill those jobs,” says Michael Lalich, president of the Lowcountry Labor Company.

Lalich serves as a middle man between employers and seasonal foreign born workers.

“The workers that have come here are not stealing jobs, they are not being paid under minimum wage, they are not working for cash under the table,” says Lalich.

Lalich then files paper work to get the workers appropriate visa’s.

“We bring in workers whether agriculture or non-ag. It is H2A or H2B visa’s. The employers have proven once they go through this program that there are no willing, able, and qualified U.S. workers to fill their position,” says Lalich.

Lalich says South Carolina is one of the top 10 states to use the H2A visa program.

“The reality is it would be a lot cheaper to find a local worker than it would be to come find me and say, hey I need to bring in 100 workers for the next five months to harvest my crops because that is $100,000 he is pulling out of his pocket before anyone even steps foot on his property,” says Lalich.

He says employers go to him because they can not find anyone willing to fill their jobs.

“Whether it is landscaping, hospitality, agriculture, forestry, There are just not enough people in the state that are willing to do these supposedly menial jobs,” said Lalich.

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