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.
Georgia Immigration Law Already Hurting Farmers | “It might almost be funny if it wasn’t so sad,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Jay Bookman writes of the horrendous results of HB87, Georgia’s Arizona-like immigration law. Despite being signed just over a month ago, the law has already caused a mass exodus of undocumented laborers from the state, leaving Georgia farms at least 11,000 workers short of what is needed to operate. The result: millions of dollars’ worth of Georgia crops are rotting in the fields because there is no one there to harvest them. The state’s farmers are panicking, and Gov. Nathan Deal (R), who signed the law in May, is scrambling to keep more farmers from losing crops and in some cases their farms.
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After enactment of House Bill 87, a law designed to drive illegal immigrants out of Georgia, state officials appear shocked to discover that HB 87 is, well, driving a lot of illegal immigrants out of Georgia.
It might almost be funny if it wasn’t so sad.
The resulting manpower shortage has forced state farmers to leave millions of dollars’ worth of blueberries, onions and other crops unharvested and rotting in the fields. It has also put state officials into something of a panic at the damage they’ve done to Georgia’s largest industry.
Barely a month ago, you might recall, Gov. Nathan Deal welcomed the TV cameras into his office as he proudly signed HB 87 into law. Two weeks later, with farmers howling, a scrambling Deal was forced to order a hasty investigation into the impact of the law he had just signed, as if all this had come as quite a surprise to him.
The results of that investigation have now been released. According to survey of 230 Georgia farmers conducted by Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, farmers expect to need more than 11,000 workers at some point over the rest of the season, a number that probably underestimates the real need, since not every farmer in the state responded to the survey.
“The agriculture industry is the number one economic engine in Georgia and it is my sincere hope to find viable and law-abiding solutions to the current problem our farmers face,” Deal said in announcing the findings. In the meantime, Deal proposes that farmers try to hire the 2,000 unemployed criminal probationers estimated to live in southwest Georgia.
Somehow, I suspect that would not be a partnership made in heaven for either party.
judge today blocked part of it, results unclear