GA farm worker story goes international

Ray Glier wrote for Agence France Press 23 June 2011, US farms at risk as workers flee immigration law
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.

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.

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:
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.

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.”

So the state is basically taxing farmers by expecting them to train probationers.

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.

“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.

That would be a further state-imposed penalty on farmers.

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.


3 thoughts on “GA farm worker story goes international

  1. Jessica Craig

    The arguments against using probationers in this article is weak and laughable. The whole idea that farmers will have to ‘train’ people to pick vegetables is non sense, esp. when pickers are paid by the piece, not the hour. I shook my head too when I read the ‘concern’ that probationers would have to be drug tested, esp. when migrant farm workers don’t have to be drug tested. Similarly, the guy who said that he didn’t want probationers working on his farm and casing his place must some how know the criminal backgrounds of the migrant workers he has hired in the past. I guess he has the number to the Mexican embassy on speed dial.
    All of these arguments are fake. They are a poor substitute to what is really going on. It is easier to cheat someone who doesn’t speak the language. It is easier to cheat someone who doesn’t know the custom. It is easier to cheat someone who has no legal recourse. What are they going to do, call the Better Business Bureau, their congressperson, the police? uh, no.

  2. Jeana Brown

    Also see the contempt for our own citizens in the farmers words-“I don’t want them to come back and rob me”.
    I say if we continue mass incarceration and rob people of the chance to come back into society as a productive member,we are not only cutting our own throats and future but we are filleting and frying it – might as well eat it. Crow can be quite good. The south has massacred it’s own work force through incarceration.
    Soon we will build private detention centers to hold immigration detainees and guess who makes the money? Not us. Check the book -Slavery by Another Name- it explains the mentality of the old south… Things have not changed. Convict labor is exactly what they had in mind. It’s how they have kept generational wealth from being passed down, and how they confiscate property. Fight to be heard the South holds the whole nation back!

  3. Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange

    As a farmer myself, I have no trouble identifying with the quoted farmers’ objections. I only use local labor, and the need to babysit is quite real, as is the theft problem with any unknowns on a farmer’s land.
    Let’s not confuse the farmers who need labor with the politicians and lobbyists for private prisons who pushed through this ridiculous law. Maybe next election the farmers will think twice about who to vote for.
    Meanwhile, let’s not fall for divide and conquer and lose sight of the deeper problem: over-incarceration and under-education. We can’t afford (financially, socially, culturally) to lock up 1 in 13 adults in Georgia. It’s time for that to change. Farmers may now be in a better position to see that.

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