As the House prepares to move mandatory E-Verify legislation this summer, growers and business owners in Georgia are speaking up about the serious problems they are grappling with due to their state’s version of the law. As the drumbeat grows louder in Georgia, we wonder if the noise will reach Washington, where Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) is proposing E-Verify as an economic cure-all and the cornerstone of the Republicans’ jobs program. Unfortunately for Mr. Smith, and as Georgia demonstrates, the burdens, costs, and consequences of E-Verify for small businesses, the agriculture industry, and ultimately, taxpayers and consumers, are astronomical.
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund, “Washington take note. Judging by Lamar Smith’s ‘logic,’ unemployed Americans by the thousands should be flocking to Georgia to line up in the fields to fill the labor void left by the experienced immigrant workforce that has fled due to the state’s law. Instead, Georgia is learning–through rotting food and higher prices–that short-sighted laws have consequences, that workers aren’t interchangeable, and that yes, in fact, immigrant workers are the backbone of our nation’s agriculture industry. As Georgia makes clear, mandatory E-Verify isn’t a jobs program, it’s an economic disaster of the highest order and a full-fledged assault on one of America’s prized industries.”
Will Washington listen to these grower voices from Georgia?
Rotting Crops and Loss of Experienced Workers:
- “What we began hearing in mid- to late May was many of our migrant workers, they were not coming to Georgia. Farmers are short on harvest labor 30 to 50 percent. You don’t have a whole lot of window — that crop has to come out or it’ll spoil.” – Charles Hall, executive director of the Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Grower’s Association.
- “For these guys picking peaches across the state of Georgia, that’s their career. They do good work and you can’t find that quality of work anywhere else.” – Drew Echols, farm manager at Jaemor Farms in Alto, GA to the Gainseville Times.
- “It’s appalling, because they didn’t think through the implications, at the farm level. It’s like a witch hunt that tells immigrants: ‘we want you gone.” – Gary Paulk, sixth-generation blackberry farmer and former county chair of Gov. Nathan Deal’s gubernatorial campaign to Time.
Economic Damage to the State and Consumers:
- “Fruits and vegetables in Georgia were worth $1.1 billion. We could see a $200 (million) to $250 million loss, potentially. The consumer may or may not see a difference in price.” – Charles Hall, executive director of the Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Grower’s Association.
- “A state survey released this month reveals the scope of the farm industry’s problems: There are as many as 11,080 farming jobs open in Georgia now, or about 14 percent of the full-time positions that are filled in the industry annually. Farmers are warning this problem could reach metro Atlanta as the labor gap could boost prices in local grocery stores.” – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporting on the impact the law is already having on the state’s ag industry.
Costs for Small Businesses
- “In recent weeks, one-third of his 300 field workers have fled. His request for state temporary workers hasn’t been answered. Now, Paulk expects to abandon about 25% of his 125 acres, at a projected loss of $250,000 this season.” – Recent impact of law on Gary Paulk, sixth-generation blackberry farmer and former county chair of Gov. Nathan Deal’s gubernatorial campaign as characterized by Time.
- “Many of our farmers don’t have a human resources department … there might be personnel costs and loss of productivity. You have the person first, then you E-Verify. It’s a three-week period. If you fire an employee (before the period is over) you could get a discrimination suit. It’s not a good situation.” – Georgia Poultry Federation President, Mike Giles to the Gainesville Times.
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