Farm organizations are gearing up to oppose a tough immigration reform. The bill, proposed by Texas representative and House Judiciary Chair Lamar Smith, would force all employers, including farmers, to verify the residency status of new hires using E-Verify, a federal database used by the Department of Homeland Security to root out illegal aliens.
Currently, employers are required to check identification, such as Social Security cards and other forms of id, for I-9 forms, but more often than not, these checks are not particularly thorough and many illegal residents slip through the cracks of the system.
Supporters argue that these immigration labor reforms are necessary and that removing illegal workers will open up jobs for American citizens. Farmers, on the other hand, argue that removing illegal aliens from the workforce could cost the farm economy billions of dollars. Paul Wegner, president of the California Farm Bureau, argued that U.S. citizens are simply uninterested in farm labor. The Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association shares these views, reporting that of the farms they’ve monitored, only 19 percent of applicants were U.S. citizens, and most of those did not last the entire season.
The fears of these farming organizations are being played out in several states that have adopted tougher immigration laws. Georgia agriculture has suffered well over $300 million in lost revenue due to a deficit of tens of thousands of agricultural jobs. Alabama is in a similar situation as well, and is currently facing an exodus of farm laborers.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer