Farmers Oppose GOP Bill on Immigration

Lets Make a Deal
Lets Make a Deal

Hmm, another crack in the GOP coalition? I don’t think Wall Street is very happy with the Tea Baggers right now, and now agribusiness is concerned too? Hmm, the election of 2012 will be interesting, won’t it?

Farmers across the country are rallying to fight a Republican-sponsored bill that would force them and all other employers to verify the legal immigration status of their workers, a move some say could imperil not only future harvests but also the agricultural community’s traditional support for conservative candidates. Blogs

The bill was proposed by Representative Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican who is the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. It would require farmers — who have long relied on a labor force of immigrants, a majority here without legal documents — to check all new hires through E-Verify, a federal database run by the Department of Homeland Security devised to ferret out illegal immigrants.

Farm laborers, required like other workers to show that they are authorized to take jobs in the United States, often present Social Security numbers and some form of picture ID. Employers, many of them labor contractors providing crews to farms, have not been required to check the information and are discouraged by antidiscrimination laws from looking at it too closely. But it is an open secret that many farmworkers’ documents are false.

“Most of our folks are Republicans,” said Paul Wenger, the president of the California Farm Bureau. “But if the Republicans do this to them without a workable worker program, it will change their voting patterns or at very least their involvement in politics.”

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Purple and White Onions

Purple and White Onions

and we’ve mentioned how difficult it is to find Americans willing to crouch in the dirt for 12 hours a day, agriculture work is not for the soft of belly and back:

…But farmers and their advocates scoff at that notion, saying that regardless of high unemployment, few American workers are willing to sign up for what are often hard, hot and long hours in the fields.

“People just don’t want to do farm work,” Mr. Wenger said. “They don’t want to pick berries. They don’t want to pick lettuce. And the pay is just as good as working at the hamburger shop or making up hotel rooms, but they just don’t want to do the work.”

Mike Carlton, director of labor relations for the Florida Fruit and Vegetables Association, agreed. He said his group monitored hiring by citrus growers, who are required to offer jobs to Americans before they can turn to the H-2A program for temporary foreign laborers.

In one sample, Mr. Carlton said, 344 Americans came forward to fill 1,800 pickers’ jobs; only eight were still working at the end of the two-month season.
Mr. Carlton said Florida growers had flocked to Washington, telling lawmakers they had glimpsed the possible impact of Mr. Smith’s proposal after a verification mandate narrowly failed in the Florida Legislature this spring. “Just the prospect of it, and some of our workers left the state,” Mr. Carlton said.

Labor shortages were also reported by Georgia growers, said Charles Hall, the executive director of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, after lawmakers there imposed a state mandate to use E-Verify this spring.

Some of the most forceful feedback has come from Mr. Smith’s home state, where farmers have the backing of the larger Texas Business Association. The group used its clout recently to kill an immigration crackdown law in the State Legislature, even though it was supported by Gov. Rick Perry, a possible Republican presidential contender.

1 thought on “Farmers Oppose GOP Bill on Immigration

  1. Lowe says:

    It would be cheaper to dump the corporate farms and import farm products. Bring back the customer service and manufacturing jobs.

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