Twice in recent weeks, local farmers and their advocates have gathered to predict the dire consequences that will occur if they are required to use E-Verify, the electronic system that mandates that employers prove their workers are in the country legally.
State Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian has been at the forefront of the discussion.
“I don’t support illegals and would ship them all out and make sure that they can’t come back, but farmers need a labor force,” Achadjian said at a Thursday gathering in Nipomo.
No one would disagree that farmers need a dependable labor force. And for the record, we believe it would be folly to pass the current E-Verify bill proposed by Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith, R-Texas.Not that the bill has much chance of passing, at least in its current form.
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According to recent news reports, Democrats oppose it, and Republicans are split. Some, including California Republican Dan Lungren, have said he could not support it without a guest worker program for agriculture.
Local Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who represents the San Joaquin Valley and sections of San Luis Obispo County, has in the past voiced some level of support for E-Verify, at least in theory.
“America is a nation founded on laws and we must uphold those laws,” McCarthy said in July in an email statement to the California News Service. “E-Verify can provide an important check and balance in our employment system.”
On Friday, his staff added that McCarthy is “working with the Judiciary Committee to ensure the voices of our local agricultural community continue to be heard as this issue is debated.”
That’s good, because the last thing we need is another knee-jerk build-a-wall “solution” to the problem of illegal immigration.
We’re already seeing some of the disastrous consequences of short-sighted immigration reform measures in other states.
In Georgia, for instance, it’s been projected that the agricultural industry will lose $391 million because of labor shortages.
In Alabama, which also is cracking down on illegal immigration, farmers say they will be forced out of business.Is that what we want in California?
Not at all.
We aren’t convinced, though, that the agriculture industry alone should be given a special exemption allowing it to hire immigrant workers at will — either through a guest worker program or some other policy.
Other industries that rely heavily on immigrant labor to fill jobs, such as food preparation and building and grounds maintenance, could also make the case that they would be devastated because they can’t find enough U.S. citizens willing to do grueling work, such as cleaning toilets and changing sheets all day.
So let’s back up and get some facts.
Clearly, it’s time to put the E-Verify bill on hold and, as speakers at recent meetings urged, have a comprehensive, serious discussion about immigration reform.