Washington Farmers Fear Economic Impact of National E-Verify Bill

applesMuch like farmers in Georgia who are experiencing labor shortages due to HB 87—the state’s new immigration law which mandates use of E-Verify—growers in Washington state fear that a similar, national E-Verify bill will have a devastating economic impact on the state’s agricultural workforce. This week, the Washington Growers League said that a national E-Verify law would prohibit many of the state’s current farm workers from harvesting crops, which would in turn devastate the industry, slashing production and forcing consumers to buy produce out of state. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) introduced the mandatory E-Verify bill (the Legal Workforce Act or H.R. 2164) back in June.

According to Mike Gempler, executive director the Washington Growers League, only a quarter (2,300 out of 100,000) of the state’s farmhands “have proper paperwork to remain employed under E-Verify,” leaving open thousands of jobs not likely to be filled by unemployed Americans:

“If we were to have the E-Verify bill go into effect without anything else changing, it would be very, very destructive to our industry,” Gempler says. “The domestic workforce is just not interested in these jobs. And if we can’t replace that workforce, with the vast majority of our crops, particularly tree fruit, we’ll lose production. We would lose market share, and consumers in the U.S. would begin buying their produce from places outside the U.S.”

Washington’s not the only state where farmers are upset. The Washington Growers League joins the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Association in concerns over how E-Verify will impact the state’s agricultural industry. According to the Association, nearly $300 million worth of crops are at risk if Georgia’s 11,000 agricultural jobs remain empty. Farmers in Georgia have already noted a 30-50% dip in migrant labor since late May, a month after HB 87 passed. Similarly, members of Georgia $14.1 billion restaurant industry—particularly the Georgia Restaurant Association—are reporting labor shortages due to the tough new immigration law.

On a national level, farmers estimate that a mandatory E-Verify program would cripple the country’s $390 billion agricultural industry as well as put a dent in federal coffers. According to president of the American Farm Bureau, Bob Stallman, denying farmers adequate labor supply would “cost farmers $5 billion to $9 billion annually.” And according to a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report, mandatory E-Verify without a legalization program would cost the federal government $17.3 billion in lost tax revenue over a decade because immigrants would work “off the books.”

seth hoyIn response, Rep. Lamar Smith (the bill’s sponsor) invites farmers to use the existing H-2A guest worker program—a program many describe as “hopelessly bureaucratic” and an “unworkable joke.”

Clearly, Smith’s enforcement-only mandatory E-Verify program—a program that stands to take a large economic bite out of the country’s agricultural industry—is not the answer. Congress must take into consideration the needs of our entire labor market by looking beyond the narrow scope of immigration enforcement toward lasting solutions that benefit our entire economy.

Seth Hoy
Immigration Impact

Photo by henry alva.

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Comments

  1. Jack Black says

    “…only a quarter (2,300 out of 100,000) of the state’s farmhands “have proper paperwork to remain employed under E-Verify,” leaving open thousands of jobs not likely to be filled by unemployed Americans…”

    Aside from the problem with his math (2300 is a heck of a lot less than one quarter of 100,000), I seriously doubt that unemployed Americans can’t be found to work those jobs. Unless, of course, standard business practices of these agribusinesses include hiring employees for less than what the law says you have to pay them.

    “…denying farmers adequate labor supply would “cost farmers $5 billion to $9 billion annually.”

    Denying farm business owners illegal immigrants means they’d be forced to abide by the law and hire people at farm minimum wage rates. Yup, the agribusiness farmers won’t rake in as much dough if they have to pay legal wages. So sad that progressives continue to support policies that allow agribusiness to become filthy rich of illegal alien labor.

    “…mandatory E-Verify without a legalization program would cost the federal government $17.3 billion in lost tax revenue over a decade because immigrants would work “off the books.”

    Many are already working off the books. That’s exactly the problem. Farmers and companies that hire illegal aliens force them to work long hours without overtime pay. They force them to work in unsafe conditions, and if they complain, they risk deportation. Employers pressure them to make their kids work as well. In this country we have child labor laws to protect kids. So why are liberals trying to help these corporations that profit from unethical business practices such as hiring illegal aliens?

    “Congress must take into consideration the needs of our entire labor market by looking beyond the narrow scope of immigration enforcement toward lasting solutions that benefit our entire economy.”

    Are you kidding? Narrow scope? Illegal immigration is devastating the working class in this country. Preventing dishonest employers from benefiting from illegal alien labor DOES support the American labor market. It gives those jobs back to Americans, where they belong.

    Seth Hoy isn’t looking for lasting solutions, and he clearly doesn’t want policies that benefit our entire economy. He just wants amnesty for illegal aliens, which has been given three times already and only encouraged more illegal immigration. Amnesty is a short term solution, and it only benefits the companies that profit of illegal labor and the lawbreakers themselves.

    Lasting, long term solutions would include jail time and huge fines for those who hire illegal aliens. Get rid of the profit, and the illegal immigration problem would be solved.

  2. James says

    Of course they’re going to have problems finding Americans to do the work. . . the Illegal Mexicans do the jobs that Americans won’t do for Illegal Mexican wages – and if they had to pay Citizens a real wage – why, they’d have to only take 3 vacations out of the country next year instead of 4 – heaven forbid!

    If a business hires Illegals, they should be fined $10,000 a head – and then the business gets confiscated and sold at public auction. . . same if anyone rents to them.

    Simple fix.

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