Proposed immigration reforms have worried farmers across the country. Following on the heels of tough immigration laws passed in Arizona, Indiana, and Georgia, the federal government is considering changes to labor laws that would require employers to verify the legal status of their employees, mandating the use of E-Verify.
This verification is troubling farmers, many of whom employ illegal immigrants and rely on immigrant labor. Some groups estimate that up to 80% of agricultural labor is done by illegal immigrants. Agricultural officials pointed out that agricultural labor is currently unappealing to most legal citizens. Last year, the United Farm Workers launched the Take Our Jobs program, posting online applications for farm labor jobs. An estimated half million applications would be needed to replace illegal immigrant labor, and out of about 80,000 inquiries, only about 12 people took agricultural jobs.
Farmers across the country are protesting the considered legislation, claiming that without immigrant labor, their farms would shut down. Manuel Cunha, president of the Nisei Farmers League in Central California, claimed that requiring the use of E-Verify would shut down most farms in the area or would send many farmers to jail. Almond farmers in Fresno County pointed out that E-Verify could have a disastrous impact on the economy and could raise the costs of agricultural products.
The current situation in Georgia seems to play out the fears of American farmers. While the Georgia Secretary of Agriculture has yet to release the results of his official report, Georgia farmers claim that their labor force has dramatically shrunk.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer