Where have Georgia's immigrant workers gone? - Macleans.ca

Where have Georgia’s immigrant workers gone?

Echoing Arizona, Georgia passed a tough immigrant law. Now it finds itself desperately short of farmhands.

Where have the workers gone?

Karen Kasmauski/Science Faction/Corbis

Following in the controversial footsteps of Arizona’s lawmakers, the ruling Republican party in Georgia introduced beefed-up immigrant legislation earlier this spring. The bill, HB 87, empowers police to question the immigration status of criminal suspects and demands business owners use E-Verify, a federal database, to check a prospective employee’s immigration status. HB 87 will take effect July 1. But, just as in Arizona, a class-action lawsuit was filed against the legislation: last week, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), along with several rights organizations and individuals, challenged the law in federal district court. “This legislation turns Georgia into a police state,” says Azadeh Shahshahani of the Georgia chapter of the ACLU. Even Carlos Santana weighed in on the national debate: “The people of Arizona, the people of Atlanta, Georgia, you should be ashamed of yourselves,” said Santana earlier this month at Major League Baseball’s annual civil rights game.

Along with opposition from civil rights groups, leaders of the agricultural industry—one of Georgia’s largest—are protesting the bill. Charles Hall, executive director of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, says migrant workers have “heard horror stories of people being harassed, being deported, being stopped at a licence check.” As a result, says Hall, farm workers are bypassing Georgia, causing a massive labour shortage in the state and sending the $1.1-billion industry into a tailspin. Hall reports farmers are experiencing labour shortages of up to 50 per cent, and estimates that a quarter of Georgia’s crops will go unharvested—representing some $300 million in lost revenue.

Although Georgia’s unemployment rate sits at 9.9 per cent, Hall says hiring domestic workers isn’t an option. “If we could get domestic workers to do our field work, we would,” he says, “but they’re not available.” Domestic workers might work in the cooler packing houses, but not in the fields. “It’s back-breaking work,” says Hall.

Despite the economic ramifications and costly court cases of the immigrant bills, the governments of Alabama and South Carolina are looking to introduce kindred legislation—capitalizing on anti-immigrant sentiment to win votes. Charles Kuck, a partner in a law firm that helped prepare the Georgia lawsuit, says Americans can expect to see more copycat bills “until Congress does its job and reshapes and corrects our national immigration policy.”


Where have Georgia’s immigrant workers gone?

  1. Wow, the irony.

    That’s what reactionism gets you I guess.

  2. So, the types who would pass a bill like this are the ones who complain about “immigrants stealing our jobs,” yet the jobs immigrants do are below the high-falutin’ ways of the unemployed complainers. Ridiculous.

  3. So, the state should repeal the law so that migrant workers can continue to work for a dollar an hour picking fruit?

    “If we could get domestic workers to do our field work, we would,” he says, “but they’re not available.”

    Might have something to do with the fact that none of them could possibly live on the wages offered.

    • It might not just be the ridiculously low wage that dissuades domestic workers. Quite possibly domestic workers expect safety standards; and so would be unwilling to work in clouds of toxic pesticide/herbicides.

      The joy of hiring illegal labour is that they can’t complain to any authority if they are given unsafe work conditions.

      • Fully agree. If the wage reflects how hard the job truly is, domestic workers would most likely do it.

        Teenagers in Canada travel all around the country in the summer to get jobs planting pine seedlings for the lumber industry. I heard it’s good pay, but very hard work…

        • I really hate Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker program which brings in foreigners to fill unskilled labour jobs. If employers would pay market rates for Canadian labour there would be no need to bring in foreigners to undercut  Canadian workers.

  4. Don’t worry, agri-business, eventually the domestic people will get desperate enough to work in the fields. You might want to hire additional security though. See? It’s a win-win!


    Republican lawmakers Rep. Lamar
    Smith (R-TX) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) has filed bills in Congress, after
    promising they would push for a national–MANDATORY–E-Verify, also called the
    “Legal Workforce Act.” It would require all US businesses to verify
    workers’ legal status through the Social Security database linked to the US
    Immigration and Citizenship Services. It would restrain unlawful immigration
    and bring jobs back to citizens and legal residents. It seems that the special
    interests are fearful of the imminent consequences of this law, because it
    would curb the open border mentality of the majority of Liberals, Democrats and
    a few Republicans. The bill is obviously being criticized by Hispanic and ethnic
    advocates, who are saying that the database was costly to run and generated
    errors, hence exasperating prejudice against legal workers whose personal data
    is comparable to illegal aliens using false ID.  

    Hispanics of legal status need not worry as
    E-Verify serves them as well as every America of any race? It takes just a few
    minutes to use and easily verify 99.5% percent of work-eligible employees. Others
    with ID irregularities receive a referral letter to resolve the problem at the
    SSA office. There is no other legislation that can be enacted that will generate
    more jobs for American labor. In actual fact there is no expenditures to the
    business world and as for irregularities, there is no high level of problems,
    as new innovations are being added to cross-reference who has a right to a job?
    Seeing so much business lobbyists as support for E-Verify is a positive signal
    at a hearing of the House immigration subcommittee. Companies have implored the
    Washington leadership to force their competitors to stop employing foreign
    labor, moreover having taxpayers subsidize their upkeep. 

    The bill would also
    make the E-Verify program permanent and in addition re-establish the no-match
    letter program. It assists in identifying the 8 million illegal immigrants that
    are presently hired in non-farming employment. E-Verify within two years of
    enactment would enforce Zero-Tolerance laws on this bad business practice.
    Large company owners, federal, state, and municipal agencies and federal and
    state contractors would need to abide by these rules within six months. Here is
    a very good chance now for the passage of this law, that business owners, who
    try to bamboozle the immigration system, will be held accountable with harsh
    sanctions. In many ways this is monumental because Republicans normally
    will demean any new laws that cut off their access to the illegal alien
    workforce. But with 9 percent of Americans not employed, perhaps millions more
    working temporary or part-time larger numbers far exceed the government
    statistics they better show some humble pie. 

    Notably the Liberals and Democrats
    are still insisting that E-Verify doesn’t work, or preaching that it will cause
    racial profiling. For decades now we have accepted there “political
    Correct” ideology, which we have all had to stomach? Ask the families of
    the 9/11 mayhem, that if the police had a right to question those Middle East
    murderers, the near 3000 death toll may never have happened at the World Trade
    center.  If law enforcement were debilitated
    in asking questions, the terrible catastrophe may have been avoided? To
    compliment E-Verify we should demand “The Secure Communities” mandated as
    well. These enforcement programs installed will begin the reduction of illegal
    aliens in this country and the millions of others thinking about the illegal
    trek from whether they come from? Americans can assist Rep. Lamar Smith of
    Texas and Sen. Chuck Grassley, demanding from both Federal and State senators
    to Mandate both E-Verify and Secure Communities at Senate—202-224–3121/


    According to NumbersUSA The Legal Workforce Act (H.R.2164) would: Phase in
    E-Verify over three years, starting with the largest companies first.

    Require the Social Security Administration (SSA) to
    target illegal aliens using fake social security numbers by sending out
    “no match” letters to employers if the name and social security number of
    a current employee do not match. Requires the employer to check those
    employees through E-Verify after receiving a “no match” letter. Require SSA to send a yearly notification to each owner
    of a social security number that has multiple employers reporting income
    to that number indicating that the number may have been stolen and is
    being used by illegal aliens. Requires employers to run through E-Verify
    those employees who are likely to have stolen the number from the
    legitimate owner. Establish a phone verification system as an alternative
    to using the electronic system. Require the use of E-Verify for those contracted at day
    labor sites and other referral or recruitment services. Protect employers who use the system in good faith from
    liability if the system makes an error on eligibility. Protect states’ and localities’ authority to revoke
    business licenses of employers who fail to use E-Verify as required by
    this Act. Significantly increases the penalties for employers who
    refuse to use the system, or who intentionally try to game it. The fines
    levied can be up to $25,000 per unauthorized worker and a minimum one-year
    prison sentence may be imposed on an employer who engages in a “pattern or
    practice” of violations. Require SSA to lock the use of social security numbers
    when it is being used by someone other than the rightful owner, when the
    owner has violated immigration laws and been ordered to leave the country,
    or when the owner’s temporary visa has expired.

    Secure Communities becomes the policing companion of E-Verify immigration laws,
    then we can further slow the massive costs associated with the annual flow
    300.000 instant babies, who parents intentionally enter America taking
    advantage of the welfare system. As in conclusion, we must lock the border down
    and stop the unfettered rush of legal immigration. We must track persons who
    enter America by other means, to make sure they depart when the visa expires. All
    immigration must be cut and only the most highly skilled available outside this
    country, should be given a visa; not the semi-skilled? Those under the
    Washington Rotunda should further commit themselves, to authoring new laws.
    Such a uniform “quota system” that only allows a reasonable amount of new
    immigrants from countries around the world, or a points system as in Europe
    that only allows persons of the highest qualifications and personal background
    through the open door.

     We cannot meet the expense in pandering to the endless
    flow of poverty into this nation anymore, as to repeat that we have countless
    amounts of homeless, disabled and penniless veterans, the sick and the mentally
    ill. They need our dollars first and not foreign nationals. TEA PARTY
    Chairperson Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota has joined the Presidential
    race and is adamantly opposed to any Immigration reform package. The 1986
    Immigration amnesty was a dead loss, as it was never enforced and was rife with
    fraud, costing eventually $76 Billion dollars. The Liberal progressives or the
    dark side of the Democratic Party are silent about the final expenditure, to
    enact an amnesty today. The heritage Foundation has accessed it at $2.5
    Trillion dollars, that it’s incomprehensible when America is riding on a dead
    horse-deficit of $14.5 Trillion dollars and racing towards a cliff.  Connect
    with the Tea Party today and add your name to the tens of millions of legal
    people, from every race and political party, disheartened with the path
    Washington has followed.