Testifying in front of the House Agriculture Committee, the California Farm Bureau President addressed proposed federal immigration reform and pushed for major reforms to the guest worker program.
Immigration has been a particularly divisive issue over the past two years, with several states passing tough new immigration laws that criminalize being without documentation, empower the police to question the immigration status of individuals they detain, and require employers to use the federal E-Verify system to determine the immigration status of potential employees. In the process, these laws have caused significant damage to various state agricultural sectors, with major shortages in available farm labor leading to millions of dollars in lost revenue.
On a federal level, the House of Representatives is considering legislation that would require all American employers to use the E-Verify system in an attempt to crack down on the hiring of illegal immigrants.
In his testimony before the House, California Farm Bureau President Paul Wegner questioned the efficacy of mandated E-Verify usage, particularly without a way to protect legal agricultural workers. In his testimony, Wegner said, “E-Verify without a workable, economical way to ensure a legal agricultural work force will be a disaster for American agriculture.”
In addition, Wegner reported a desperate need for reforms to the guest worker program, allowing more workers to legally work and reside in the United States with fewer hassle and less red tape. The domestic workforce will not be enough to fill current agricultural needs, despite high unemployment, Wegner said, creating a need for foreign labor. Without changes to current immigrant labor regulations, the only alternative that many farmers have is to turn to illegal immigrants.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer