There is finally a solution to the "Migrant Problem," which, like the "Jewish Problem" of 70 years ago, was never a problem for anybody except those who chose to regard it as a "problem" (and they, of course, were the ones with the problem). Fortunately, this "final solution" doesn't involve gas ovens but robots.
No, this is not a joke. They have finally found a practical application for robots and a group of human beings whom they can replace without anyone shedding a tear about the implications of this new brave (and soul-less) world. Of course, you don't need a soul to pick fruit. You don't even have to tell the difference between ripe and unripe since most Americans can't tell the difference anyway. Fruit picked by robots will perhaps be a little more bruised (like "mechanically separated chicken") but that will be more than offset by the knowledge that dirty migrant hands did not touch the fruit.
Although you would not think so from the xenophobic propaganda the Republican candidates are spewing for popular consumption this electoral season, there is actually a shortage of migrant workers in this country. In Michican 20 percent of the asparagus crop and 15 percent of the apple crop were lost because they didn't have enough workers to harvest them. The situation is even worse in New York's Hudson Valley where 3 billion apples wait to be picked and there is no local labor force to pick them. Farmers are blaming tighter border security for the shortage of migrant workers. The situation will only get worse when the Department of Homeland Security implements new regulations that will force employers to fire undocumented workers or be fined out of existence. To maintain Homeland Security nowadays obviously involves protecting Americans from illegal fruitpickers, putting farmers out of business and making every fruit and vegetable sold in this country cost more per pound than the price of a gallon of gas.
Well, what is a country to do that doesn't want to pay $19.95 per lb. for tomatoes but at the same time wants only native-born tomato pickers? Raise the minimum wage above the poverty line? God forbid! Do you want Wall Street to crash? Teach young Americans about the "dignity of work" (this phrase, by the way, is generally used to romanticize exploitation) in the hope that perhaps some might be persuaded to leave their sinecures at McDonald's for the "extremely labor intensive" work of a fieldhand. The historical record would belie such hopes, as there is no known instance of a house slave applying to become a fieldhand. No, there is really nothing that can be done to convince the marginalized of society to marginalize themselves even more. And middle- and upper-class Americans, of course, will never learn to be grateful that they don't have to pick their own fruit and vegetables.
It is under such circumstances of our own making that science, again, saves us from ourselves in the non-person of the agrobot, which will replace, or so it is hoped, the migrant worker. California fruit growers are financing the creation of the robotic fruit picker, a marvel of science which will at least match if not surpass the fruit-picking capacity of the average Mexican laborer and will not require as much maintenance (not that migrants require much). Whether or not, in the end, the agrobots perform up to expectations, at least, Homeland Security will not require them to have green cards. It is projected that it will require four more years of research and many millions of dollars more before the first agrobots are working side by side with live fruit pickers. That will be only in the beginning until the agrobots learn the ropes (or should that be "cables?").
Let me reiterate that this is not a joke. The San Diego-based company carrying out research on prototypes is called Vision Robotics. It's CEO, robot designer Derek Morikowa, says that "robots working in teams will soon be able to map out an entire orchard." The next challenge will be to program them to climb 17 feet citrus trees with regulation 38 lb. picking bags. After that hurdle is overcome the next challenge will be to program the agrobots to climb down again. The agrobot is described as an "octopus" (yes, why indeed limit it to two hands?) with optical scanners that can detect the fruit and mechanical arms that will pluck it "delicately without bruising it."
I can't help but wonder why Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee haven't publicized the "Robotic Solution" to the "Migrant Problem." I am sure that it would be received jubilantly by xenophobes from coast to coast. No longer will they be left openmouthed when asked, "Well, then, who's going to replace the Mexicans? Are you, or your kids?" For some reason , they take that question as a personal insult. It must have something to do with their conception of the "dignity of work."