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Arizona E-Verify Law & Supreme Court Decision: A Dagger in the Heart of American Agriculture

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In Absence of Federal Immigration Reform, Mandatory E-Verify Will Deport Farms and Jobs, Hurt Americans

Yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling to uphold Arizona’s law requiring state businesses use the E-Verify system strikes a crushing blow to the Arizona agriculture industry.  If other states follow Arizona’s lead, or if Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) gets his wish and rams through a mandatory E-Verify law this summer, it will be the beginning of the end for American farms, domestic food sources, and related jobs held by Americans in production, processing, transportation, and marketing.   

According to Lynn Tramonte, Deputy Director of America’s Voice Education Fund, “Yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling is a dagger in the heart of Arizona agriculture.  If this type of law spreads nationwide, we will essentially deport the entire agriculture industry—including jobs held by Americans—and be forced to import more of our nation’s food supply.  Passing a mandatory E-Verify law without comprehensive immigration reform will kill American jobs and farms, burden small businesses, reduce tax revenue, and drive undocumented workers further underground.  This is a dangerous approach, particularly when there is a better plan on the table that would level the playing field for workers and employers and expand tax revenues.  Instead of passing a law that would harm whole industries and fail to fix the problems with our broken immigration system, Congress should pass real immigration reform like AgJOBs, the DREAM Act, and comprehensive immigration reform.” 

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack captured what’s at stake for the American agriculture industry in an op-ed today in the Lincoln Journal-Star, writing, “The truth is that even when farmers make their best efforts to recruit a domestic work force, few citizens express interest, and even fewer show up to spend long hours laboring in the hot sun.  Simply put, our broken immigration system offers little hope for producers trying to do right and make a living…Our nation’s farmers need a system that will reward them for playing by the rules – not punish them for it.  We need to stop threatening the competitiveness of our agriculture economy with broken immigration policies.  When we pursue comprehensive reform a 21st century immigration system, not only will we help America’s farmers and ranchers maintain successful operations with a reliable work force they hire legally, we will ensure that all Americans enjoy the benefits of a safe, affordable and abundant food supply that has helped make us so prosperous today.”

As the Los Angeles Times editorialized, “The problem with the Arizona statute is not that it penalizes employers who break the law.  Businesses that hire undocumented immigrants should face fines or sanctions, as called for under current federal law (although many would disagree with the court’s conclusion that states may impose such penalties).  The problem is that the law relies on E-Verify, which isn’t ready for prime time.  Thursday’s decision should put Washington on notice that in the absence of a federal solution, states will step in to fill the void.”

For more information on the unintended consequences of E-Verify and its potential impact on the American agriculture industry:

America’s Voice Education Fund — Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform.