Florida Farm Works With Immigration Officials

A Florida farm recently signed an agreement with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, the first Florida farm to do so, pledging to verify the immigration status of all employees and vowing to aid federal officials crack down on illegal immigration.

For the past several years, immigration has been a major hot button political issue. Citing the reluctance of the federal government to crackdown on illegal immigration, several states have passed their own restrictive immigration laws designed to curb the flow of undocumented workers. States like Arizona, Alabama, and Georgia have, within the past two years, passed tough new immigration laws expanding the power of local police and requiring employers to use the federal E-Verify system to guarantee the immigration status of employees.

For the most part, farmers are hesitant to embrace these measures. Given the scarcity of domestic labor, many farmers find themselves relying on migrant farm workers, many of whom are illegally residing in the U.S.

Florida Potato & Onion, which employs about 60 workers, represents an oddity in their willingness to work with ICE officials. They recently joined IMAGE (ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers). In exchange for committing to cross check employee records with federal immigration databases, ICE agrees to limit or forgive fines on IMAGE partners for hiring undocumented workers.

Despite the cooperation of this particular farm, many Florida farmers are skeptical that agricultural businesses will readily join the IMAGE program and are focusing their efforts on reforming work visas regulations to expand access to immigrant labor pools.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer