The Dangerous Link Between E-Verify and E. Coli
Washington – As Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) gears up to make the ineffective E-Verify program mandatory as a cornerstone of his overall mass-deportation goal, a new Associated Press article highlights what’s at stake in the congressional battle ahead. Rep. Smith and the Republicans’ push for E-Verify will wreak major unintended consequences, including the decimation of the American agriculture industry.
Rep. Smith told Congressional Quarterly of his plans to introduce the legislation in the near future and predicted that E-Verify “will pass the House and the Senate fairly easily.” Yet this pursuit of mass-deportation at any cost is a grave danger to a major American economic engine that produces up to $9 billion in economic activity each year. Mandatory E-Verify would accelerate the end of American agriculture and force more food production overseas, to the detriment of American jobs and regional economic stability. And at a time when a new strain of E. coli circulates in many foreign countries, the prospect of outsourcing more of agriculture production raises alarms about our food safety.
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund, “The Republican congressional majority came into power promising job creation and deficit reduction, yet when it comes to agriculture and its immigrant workforce they are hell-bent on a strategy that will increase the deficit and eliminate American jobs.”
The AP article includes reactions and testimonials from a range of agriculture experts about the dangers of E-Verify. Manuel Cunha, a citrus farmer in Fresno, CA, said, “If we were to use E-Verify now, we’d shut down, either that or farmers would go to prison…We’ve admitted many workers are not legal and if you have to get rid of everybody, where do I go to get my labor? Nowhere. We have to have a work force that we can put in the system.”
The problem facing Cunha and thousands of similar employers is that few American workers express interest in the back-breaking labor and low wages associated with farm work, resulting in an agricultural labor force comprised of 75 percent unauthorized workers. Even in this difficult economy, experts agree that Americans are not going to return to the fields to pick crops if we force out 3 million agriculture workers. In fact, as the article points out, last year’s “Take Our Jobs” campaign from the United Farm Workers (UFW) sought to entice American workers to take to the fields – after receiving 86,000 inquiries, UFW successfully placed only 11 American workers in farm jobs.
Despite the publicized dangers of E-Verify to agriculture and American jobs, the Republican Party continues to reject sensible alternatives such as AgJobs, which would give temporary resident status to immigrant farm workers and create a path to legal residency after five years. For example, Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA) said, “We’re going to have a crisis in agriculture…And while it sounds great to say an agreement (on AgJOBS) is going to take care of it, it’s not going to pass.”
Said Sharry, “Of course AgJobs won’t pass if Republicans like Dan Lungren won’t step up and provide an alternative to the Lamar Smith’s reckless vision. Republicans have it in their power to push for a solution that delivers control of the broken immigration system and works for employers and workers alike, yet remain insistent on E-Verify, which is destined to create new problems and make existing problems worse. Instead of E-Verify, sensible Republicans should listen to their constituents and seek out real solutions such as AgJobs and larger, common-sense immigration reform.”
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