ATLANTA, Georgia (AFP) – A controversial immigration law in the US state of Georgia has brought unintended results, forcing farmers to reluctantly turn to ex-convicts as Latin American manual workers flee.The story quotes the figure of 11,000 needed workers, and quotes some farmers about that the state’s scheme to send people on probation to work on farms:
Low-skilled, undocumented workers, who for years have formed the backbone of this southern state’s farming economy, have bolted in the lead-up to the law taking effect on July 1, fearing deportation if caught working here.
The measure’s mainly Republican supporters argue that the state needs to enforce immigration laws in the absence of effective federal action, saying schools, jails and hospitals are overburdened by illegal aliens.
But as the full cost of the immigration reform emerges in the form of an estimated millions of dollars worth of crops rotting in fields, it could alarm other states that have passed or are considering similar strict measures.
Melinda James, of Osage Farms in Rabun Gap, admits the “probationers” are not her first choice for the jobs, which often involve long hours working in fields under the punishing southern heat.So the state is basically taxing farmers by expecting them to train probationers.
But with the gaping hole in their normal workforce, many reluctant farmers have little choice.
“We’re going to have to train them — that’s a cost we’re going to have to absorb,” James told AFP.
“If they pass a drug test and they’re drug free, we’ll use them if we have to,” she added, pointing out that many workers they used to employ “are scared to come to Georgia.”
The AFP story continues:
Other farmers, such as Dan King of Five Brothers Produce in Rebecca, refuse to hire people on probation despite the shortage in laborers.That would be a further state-imposed penalty on farmers.
“I don’t need to make it easy for someone to case my place and come back and steal from me after hours,” he said.
Georgia could reverse the trend:
The new law’s impact is being closely watched in neighboring South Carolina, where opponents have slammed a proposed immigration measure as a “Draconian racial profiling bill” that would take a similar toll on the economy.There’s still time to see reason.
We can start by refusing to build a private prison in Lowndes County, Georgia, which would profit a private prison company and its shareholders at the expense of Georgia farmers and taxpayers. Spend that tax money on rehabilitiation and education instead.