Posted on October 5, 2011 by scjustice
Wednesday, Oct. 05, 2011
ATLANTA — A farm labor shortage that left crops rotting in the fields after Georgia passed a law cracking down on illegal immigration shows the need for a retooled or expanded guest worker program for migrant laborers, Georgia’s agriculture commissioner told a panel of Washington lawmakers Tuesday.
Commissioner Gary Black testified at a Senate subcommittee hearing on immigration enforcement and farm labor that an informal survey showed farmers of onions, watermelons and other handpicked crops lacked more than 11,000 workers during their spring and summer harvest. Farmers say that’s because the Georgia immigration law scared off many migrant workers.
Financial incentives aimed at getting unemployed Georgians and even criminals on probation to take their place picking crops were marginally successful, Black said, because the new workers were too slow and often quit because of the strenuous labor involved.
“A robust agricultural guest worker program, properly designed, will not displace American workers,” Black said in remarks prepared for the hearing. “As my testimony shows, in Georgia, even with current high unemployment rates, it is difficult for farmers to fill their labor needs.”
Black said it’s still unclear how much the labor shortage will ultimately cost farmers. But one group says growers have already lost tens of millions of dollars. (more…)
Filed under: Arizona-copycat laws, immigrant community, Law Enforcement, Migrant Workers | Tagged: Agricluture Commissioner, bell peppers, blackberries, blueberries, Charles Hal, cucumbers, Gary Black, Georgia, Georgia Fruit And Vegetable Growers Association, John McKissick, onions, squash, watermelons | 3 Comments »
Posted on August 2, 2011 by scjustice
From The New York Times:
Jim Wilson/The New York Times
Workers sorting dried apricots at George Bonacich’s farm in Patterson, California.
Published: July 30, 2011
PATTERSON, Calif. — 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.
George Bonacich inspecting dried apricots at the processing facility on his farm in Patterson, Calif., with Rosalba Ortega Barragan, a longtime worker at the farm and a new American citizen.
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.
Supporters of E-Verify, an electronic system that is currently mandatory for most federal contractors but voluntary for other employers, argue that it would eliminate any doubt about workers’ legal status. But farmers say it could cripple a $390 billion industry that relies on hundreds of thousands of willing, low-wage immigrant workers to pick, sort and package everything from avocados to zucchini.
“This would be an emergency, a dire, dire situation,” said Nancy Foster, president of the U.S. Apple Association, adding that the prospect of an E-Verify check would most likely mean that many immigrant workers would simply not show up. “We will end up closing down.” (more…)
Filed under: Arizona-copycat laws | Tagged: American Farm Bureau, E-Verify, farmers, Georgia Fruit And Vegetable Growers Association, U.S. Apple Association | Leave a Comment »