When the topic of illegal immigration comes up, it is always important to make sure everyone has some facts. Especially when it involves the agriculture industry.
I am told there were suggestions for the creation of a state “guest worker” program to find farm workers to replace the thousands of illegals who have migrated out of Georgia because of the passage of HB 87, the latest law that says we must all obey the law on immigration and employment.
Fact: The U.S. has had a federal guest worker Ag visa in place since 1986.
The H2A program establishes lawful means for agricultural employers who anticipate a shortage of domestic workers to bring an unlimited number (no ceiling!) of temporary foreign workers into the United States.
The legal, temporary workers must be treated with dignity. Employers must provide decent housing that meets health and safety standards and provide workers’ compensation insurance to workers.
The wage for H2A workers must be the same as the prevailing wage for U.S. workers.
And there is the rub. Throughout the last legislative session, the lobbyists for the Ag industry constantly complained that the legal workers provided by the existing H2A guest worker plan were more costly than the black-market labor they have been allowed to use for decades.
They wailed that use of the easy-to-use and accurate, internet-based ‘E-Verify’ federal employment verification system mandated for most employers in HB 87 would interfere with hiring the cheaper illegals. And that it was difficult to use a computer “while you’re out in a truck in the middle of a watermelon field and you don’t have access to the Internet.” Most of us can see how that is true.
We also see that it would be hard to collect the required federal forms when hiring an employee or accomplishing any other business administration task from a tractor. We also see the silliness in the argument for not using E-Verify.
And that the current Ag wage in America is not high enough to attract American workers.
The legislature didn’t accept the argument either.
At more than one million, the USA takes in more real, legal immigrants than any nation on the planet.
We should all honor and protect them by insisting on enthusiastic enforcement of our immigration laws.
D.A. King, Marietta
President of the Georgia-based Dustin Inman Society, which is pro-enforcement on immigration.