Tuesday, February 22, 2011

In the Passionate & Sometimes Heated Debate about Immigration, Let's not forget about Our Farmers

We all agree that immigration of illegals into this country is a problem, but do do anything that will affect our farmers who heavily rely on immigrants whether they are illegal or not.

The key here is Farmers. Farmers need migrant workers

The proposal from state Sen. Jack Murphy along with other Republican senators would require all private employers to use a federal database to check that new hires are in the country illegally. In addition it includes exemptions for employers who use certain work visa programs.

Murphy's legislation would require law enforcement officers, during any stop of a criminal suspect, to verify the immigration status of the suspect if they believe the person is in the country illegally. If the person is determined to be here illegally, the bill would allow officers to arrest them and take them to a federal detention facility.

Now all of this tough talk may sound good to the likes who want to deport every single immigrant suspected of being here illegally, but the likes of Murphy & others are missing something here: THE IMPACT THIS WILL HAVE ON GEORGIA FARMERS.

Georgia Agriculture is the number 1 economic industry in the state. Lets not forget, this is still a largely rural state.

Its tough being a farmer & now legislators want to make it even tougher for them. Now there are numerous Red Tape Hurdles, timelines & response deadlines for Farmers to track. If, and only if, a qualified American doesn’t apply for the job, can the farmer hire a foreign worker. But there’s an expensive caveat. Let’s say that a farmer goes through all the regulations and ultimately does hire an immigrant worker. If an American shows up halfway through the work season and says he or she wants the immigrant’s job, the farmer must hire the American and fire the immigrant worker and then pay the airfare back to the immigrant’s home country. This is on top of paying for the flight into this country and 100% of housing costs.

Larger corporations, such as those that run confined animal feeding operations can afford to abide by the regulations, but smaller farmers find it extremely difficult and expensive. A small Georgia Farmer trying to abide by the program is like “pouring money into a rat hole.”

Donald Chase, a Macon Co Farmer & President of the Georgia Peanut Commission stated in the Macon Telegraph over the weekend that "As a farmer, I don't want to be a police for the immigration service". I agree!

Farmers who use the H-2A program are excluded from Murphy's far reaching legislation.

The H-2A program isn’t great for the workers either, they can only work for the specific employer once inside the country and aren’t allowed to follow the picking season from farm to farm. This group that we are so fond of denigrating and seeing as some kind of threat, this group has been very good at moving from spot to spot to spot according to where the work is, that’s why we call them "migrant" workers. They show up when they’re needed, and vanish to the next gig when the need has ended, a unique and undervalued dimension of that skill set.

The country’s insistence on booting out 8 million undocumented workers ignores the fact that 300 plus million people (it maybe more than that) still need to nourish themselves with close to a billion meals a day while maintaining a high standard of living and low prices.

There are no easy to this out of control problem. The immigration issue is huge and complex, which is perhaps why Congress has been paralyzed except for voting down The Dream Act, which would have given legal residency to immigrants who arrived in this country before the age of 16, have lived here for at least five years, graduated from high school, and completed two years of college or honorable military service. Notably, these candidates would still be barred from citizenship if they have a criminal record and wouldn’t be eligible for federal grant scholarships.

Americans living in border states have suffered from organized crime and mayhem as a result of networks of “coyotes” transporting undocumented workers. The influx of huge numbers of migrant workers has bankrupted hospitals and schools, and has changed the entire culture and sense of security in border towns.

So to our lawmakers up in Atlanta & Washington, let's not forget about our farmers here & what kind of impact any legislation will have on them in the long run.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Now as a farmer living down here in Bacon County, I have doubts about the gap between farmers abilities to reward employees and American citizens' expectations of compensation closing enough to generate a real American workforce in American agriculture.

Migrant workers have an expectation of long hours and hard work under difficult conditions and the whole market is built around that fundamental input. The seasonal nature of farm labor is also difficult to overcome.

Americans live with credit and debt and need to be able to service the debt routinely and obtain credit reliably. Seasonal labor is not a lender's idea of reliable income. In the end, despite the difficulties we are going through now, the American job market creates too many "more-appealing" alternatives for its citizens. I agree migrants are rewarded well, at least the ones working in our region.

But they work hard to earn it. It's just a shame that illegal immigration has made a legal migrant workforce so difficult to develop. A legal migrant worker program is really a win-win for workers and farmers, and the American consumer as well.

This is a Rural Blog that provides views & insights from a Conservative Georgia Democrat

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