A bill being proposed by Texas Republican Lamar Smith would require farmers to verify all new hires (most of which are immigrants here without legal documents) through E-Verify, the federal database run by the Department of Homeland Security.
From a New York Times article:
Supporters of E-Verify, an electronic system that is currently mandatory for most federal contractors but voluntary for other employers, argue that it would eliminate any doubt about workers’ legal status. But farmers say it could cripple a $390 billion industry that relies on hundreds of thousands of willing, low-wage immigrant workers to pick, sort and package everything from avocados to zucchini.
“This would be an emergency, a dire, dire situation,” said Nancy Foster, president of the U.S. Apple Association, adding that the prospect of an E-Verify check would most likely mean that many immigrant workers would simply not show up. “We will end up closing down.”
And for those of you who argue that unemployed Americans will happily take these jobs:
Mike Carlton, director of labor relations for the Florida Fruit and Vegetables Association […] said his group monitored hiring by citrus growers, who are required to offer jobs to Americans before they can turn to the H-2A program for temporary foreign laborers.
In one sample, Mr. Carlton said, 344 Americans came forward to fill 1,800 pickers’ jobs; only eight were still working at the end of the two-month season.
So once again, I call on all Americans who complain about immigration and who are collecting unemployment checks during this economic downturn, to go out to your local farms and orchards and get yourselves one of these jobs you claim Americans want. Farmers all across the country are willing to hire you. Are you willing to do the work?
Fortunately, it looks like farmers from across the nation are up in arms about this and willing to fight, and while the bill may have a better chance of passing in the House, it doesn't seem likely it would make it through the Senate. With rising food prices and a troubled economy already weighing heavily on American households, let's hope that's indeed the case.