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Devin Nunes Has A Secret. A Cow Secret.
OK, it's more of an undocumented workers at his family's cow farm secret. And it's not so secret anymore.
Yr Wonkette has been wrong all along about Devin Nunes, the chair of the House Intel Committee who has helped Donald Trump find the real Russian collusion scandal, which is Hillary Clinton and the FBI doing wire tapps to Trump. We have pushed the scurrilous rumor that Nunes has been romancing the cows at his family's California dairy farm, but yesterday we learned, thanks to a hell of an investigative piece in Esquire , that can't be true, since in 2009, Nunes's family sold their farmland in Tulare County, California, a decade ago and moved off to Sibley, Iowa, to set up a dairy operation there. And they successfully kept that move out of the media for years. So Devin Nunes's claims to be a humble California cowshitkicker are even less credible than before. Gosh, wonder why they've tried so hard to conceal a fairly unremarkable move? Maybe to keep Devin away from the cows? It would be irresponsible not to speculate.
But one Nunes uncle still has a dairy operation in California, so maybe Devin can still cownoodle with Gem there.
The story is a hell of a read, a ripping write-around in the best New Journamalism style, complete with reporter Ryan Lizza finding himself first very, very welcome in Sibley, then increasingly the object of paranoid surveillance by the Nunes clan. When he gets to town, everyone says they're big fans of Donald Trump, but when he asks about Trump's Deport Everyone immigration policy, the nearly universal reply is, as a very friendly cafe owner says, "Well, we don't agree with him on that!" Which is maybe not the reaction you'd expect in a town represented by, of all people, nigh fascist and full on white supremacist Steve King.
Oh, and even though the Nunes family moved to King's district in 2009, King helped hide that fact when Nunes came to campaign for him in 2010. A press release King posted online
included some biographical information about Nunes, including this fact: "Congressman Nunes' family has operated a dairy farm in Tulare County, California for three generations." There was no mention that the Nunes family actually lived up the road in Sibley, where they operated a dairy. Strange.
Sibley's mayor suggests Lizza drop by to visit Devin's dad, Anthony Nunes Jr., at home, because folks in Sibley are open and friendly, but it doesn't go so great.
Anthony Jr. was pulling out of the driveway in a farm truck. I waved at him, and he abruptly stopped the truck in the street and walked over to my car. He was wearing jeans and a work shirt. I told him my name and asked him if I could talk to him for an article about his dairy. "I'm taking your license plate down and reporting you to the sheriff," he said. "I don't want to be bothered."
Before long, once Lizza starts asking nosy reporterpants questions about the local dairy industry's reliance on undocumented laborers, and about the Nunes family operation, NuStar Farms LLC, other people start avoiding him too. The nice cafe owner nervously lets a local agriculture-industry reporter know maybe it would be best if Lizza interviewed him elsewhere, and the reporter tells Lizza they need to get the hell out of the cafe. As they leave, the lovely cafe owner tells Lizza, "This article [...] is going to destroy families."
Lizza starts noticing he's being tailed by the same few vehicles over and over (one with a license plate reading "NUSTAR") and darned if they don't all turn out to be driven by Nuneses of one sort or another. All the while, he's learning details of the big open secret: The area's farms simply couldn't stay in business without undocumented workers. The economics of the dairy industry make it actually impossible to hire outside the pool of very available undocumented migrants:
"Eighty percent of the Latino population out here in northwest Iowa is undocumented," estimated one dairy farmer in the area who knows the Nunes family and often sees them while buying hay in nearby Rock Valley. "It would be great if we had enough unemployed Americans in northwest Iowa to milk the cows. But there's just not. We have a very tight labor pool around here." This person said the system was broken, leaving dairy farmers no choice. "I would love it if all my guys could be legal."
Sure farmers are required to check documents, so they look at the fairly good forged Social Security cards or green cards, then dutifully withhold taxes that will never be paid out in benefits for the faked numbers. Most of his sources said -- on the basis of informed speculation -- there was simply no way the Nunes operation could be any different. And yes, Lizza also found "two sources with firsthand knowledge" that NuStar definitely employs at least some undocumented workers. One was a person who had sent undocumented laborers to the farm:
"I've been there and bring illegal people," the source said, asserting that the farm was aware of their status. "People come here and ask for work, so I send them over there." When I asked how many people working at dairies in the area are documented citizens, the source laughed. "To be honest? None. One percent, maybe."
The other source? An undocumented immigrant from Guatemala who claimed they'd worked at the Nunes farm for four years, although the source didn't want to speculate about the immigration status of the other workers there. A third source at another farm, not NuStar, gave Lizza details on how migrants get to the US (through expensive smugglers, in that source's case) and what the pay is like ($14 an hour, twelve hours a day, six days a week. About $800 a week after taxes, which again, these migrants will not get back in retirement or Medicare, nope).
When I asked how many dairy workers in the area are undocumented, the source replied, " Todos " -- everybody.
And of course, there's the incredible irony and hypocrisy. Everybody's making money off the system (and we consumers are all benefiting from low milk and meat and poultry prices) even as Republicans make a huge show of immigration raids and calling for stricter anti-immigrant action and deporting everyone. Steve King has to know his constituents are using migrant labor and would be ruined if their workers were all deported. (Local dairy farmers have even formed a compact; an ICE raid on one would be treated as an ICE raid on all, with other farmers supplying labor to the raided one.) Donald Trump may or may not know anything at all about that. But he started a trade war with Canada, partly fueled by stupid indignation about milk and dairy (and perhaps partly resolved today by renaming NAFTA and shuffling some provisions around). But Canada insists US farmers are subsidized by the low cost of migrant labor, and despite the increased deportations, it's still impossible to deport everyone, because who'll milk the cows and slaughter the chickens?
It's a fascinating story, depressing, jaw-dropping, and laugh-out-loud funny by turns, and while the last people who should suffer for this exposé are the undocumented workers, the stupid takeaway will probably be ICE raids. Possibly at farms owned by the only registered Democrats in the area. We'll just continue pretending we can deport everyone and create prosperity without any difficulty, because damned if Steve King would ever introduce a guest worker program, and damned if Trump would ever sign one into law. That's "amnesty," after all.
Maybe if it brought in Russian and Norwegian farm workers. Stephen Miller might look into that.
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