Georgia’s big secret: State needs illegal workers

WASHINGTON — I’m going to let you in on a big secret, a closely-held and dirty truth about Georgia’s farmers: They depend on immigrants, some of whom are here illegally.

What’s that? You knew that already? Not such a secret?

Well, Georgia’s agri-business leaders are posing and posturing as if it is. They dare not admit that they need the sweat and toil of migrant laborers so much that they are not always fastidious about searching for legal documents.

But the gut-busting pressures of a harsh new Georgia law targeting illegal immigrants — modeled after a controversial law in Arizona — may force farmers to speak the truth out loud. At the very least, it may force them to campaign openly for a broad immigration reform proposal that grants legal status to illegal laborers.

It’s not looking like a good year for many of Georgia’s farmers, who were already struggling with a warming earth. As drought conditions worsen in some portions of the state — upgraded from moderate to severe — searing heat and stingy rainfall are yellowing leaves and stunting crops.

Now, some of those lucky enough to reap bountiful harvests may be forced to leave fruits and vegetables in the fields for want of enough hands to pick the onions and tomatoes, beans and watermelons. Farmers have complained that some of their seasonal workers from Mexico, Guatemala and other points south have failed to show up, frightened away by the new law, which takes effect July 1, and its promise of increased scrutiny of those with Spanish surnames.

Dick Minor, president of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable

Growers Association, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that some migrant workers are skipping Georgia because they fear harassment. “People are just saying, ‘I am not going to Georgia. The law is terrible. We are going to get in trouble there. Let’s just go on.’ They have options. And what they are saying is, ‘Georgia is not the place to go,’ “ he told reporter Jeremy Redmon.

(For what it’s worth, the labor shortage casts doubt on

the old canard that illegal immigrants are taking jobs from hardworking American citizens, a reliable set-piece in arguments from nativist diehards. Even at an average wage of $12.50 or so an hour, native-born Georgians aren’t eager to take the work the fields offer — dirty, joint-maiming, miserably hot and impermanent. Once you’ve picked one crop, you must move to another state for a different harvest.)

Still, Minor and other agri-business leaders continue to insist that they only hire legally — and that the new law has scared away workers with green cards or other legal documents. That may be. It’s certainly easy to imagine that workers who don’t wish to be harassed would avoid a state that has hung out an unwelcome sign.

But it’s also likely that some of those workers don’t have legal documents and fear deportation. Hints of that abound — including a recent history wherein Georgia farmers complained to their Congressional delegation when federal agents raided their fields.

There are also the frequent complaints about the federal program that governs guest workers, a system that allows temporary laborers to enter the country legally. Many Georgia farmers complain it is too bureaucratic and costly to use. So how many of them rely, instead, on workers whose papers are suspect?

Georgia farmers aren’t the likeliest allies of immigration reform activists, but necessity can create strange alliances. The fields need strong backs and willing hands, and there aren’t enough of those around.

279 comments Add your comment

Paddy O

June 3rd, 2011
8:15 pm

this article is a good representation of bad leadership (I can’t deal with this problem, so we’ll just let it slide down the slippery slope). Another tenet of liberal leadership.


June 3rd, 2011
8:17 pm

Problem solved. Georgia currently has 132,003 welfare recipients and 209,801 on the unemployment rolls. If just half of them would leave their airconditioning and go to the fields for the $12.50 per hour in leiu of waiting for their checks the crops would be harvested with no need for illegals. I can’t believe you missed that one or did you. Too bad social justice instead of properity ranks so high on your value list scale.

Paddy O

June 3rd, 2011
8:17 pm

Wonder if CT has a czar job with the Obummer Administration? (public propoganda – would provide an excuse for her Obozo is the next coming routine).


June 3rd, 2011
8:18 pm

BTW cam,
25,000 dead in Mexico – Drug Cartels – If you Hippy libs would quit bying the “Harmless Weed” there would be no money for the Mexican drug Cartels. Tell the 25,000 dead it is “harmless!!”.

Paddy O

June 3rd, 2011
8:18 pm

I’d recommend the farmers offer $15 an hour to illegals, and most of their protests will vanish pretty quickly.

Lil' Barry Bailout

June 3rd, 2011
8:27 pm

Offer $15 an hour and you might get a few parasites off of long-term unemployment.


June 3rd, 2011
8:27 pm

One vote for prisoners and the generational government dependent leeches — put them in the fields and orchards to contribute their “fair share” to society!!!!

Lil' Barry Bailout

June 3rd, 2011
8:37 pm

Excellent idea–require the parasites to bring in the crop as a condition of keeping their taxpayer-funded handouts!

Paddy O

June 3rd, 2011
8:48 pm

on drug use/war- we now, it took 30 years – have come close to the same situation we had during prohibition – people want to use drugs, but high & might Feds have to save us from ourselves. Can’t comment on meth or heroine, but marijuana use should be treated like speeding – if your dumb enough to get caught out with it on you or your car, you get a nice financial fine – no jail time. That way it remains a stigma, but not a financial drag on society. It would also preclude cops smashing in somebodies door just to bust ‘em for having some ganja in the kitchen (who is the victim there?). You could do the same for meth, cocain, heroine – just fine the crap out of ‘em and keep going. If they were involved in a traffic accident, with injuries, mortal or not, then the fines and punishment would be much, much steeper ($500 fine for just property damage accident, lose license,lose car, etc). We have to stop putting people in jail for relatively victimless crimes (selling to kids under 18 or 21 would have very heavy fines, possibly a month or so in jail).


June 3rd, 2011
8:49 pm

this article is a good representation of bad leadership (I can’t deal with this problem, so we’ll just let it slide down the slippery slope).


Just, wow.

24 years after St. Ronnie-of-the-RayGun’s amnesty that you silly cons have ignored for nearly a quarter century, and it’s only the past year or so that you get all poutragey.

And now you express concern about letting it slide?


Billybob, aka 'tucker translator'

June 3rd, 2011
8:50 pm

Nobody wants to see people suffer, but your focus on these people does not address and fix the fundamental problem. The gov’t, since 1990, has allowed 25-30 million people to sneak across the border. This causes chaos , fraud, crimes, hard work and heartbreak. That is the leak, plugging the hole is the first step to any successful plan. I think it’s amazing that you, on the one hand, support the policies of prosecuting our fellow citizens for employing illegal aliens. Then, on your other hand, you support what the gov’t is doing which is just releasing the illegals workers back in the streets. It’s like a comedy of errors.
This is simple tucker. If you want to focus on the illegals and stop them from coming, then the other problem goes away. BUT, if you focus on the employers, the illegals run around and grow in numbers and you will be ‘chasing your tail’ indefinitely. There are two distinct victims here in this equation folks, the illegals and our citizens and what I see is Eric Holder making a big push to prosecute our citizens and then opening the back door and letting the illegals go. Teachable moment people…..this is an example of the uber LIB 101 far left academia world of thought. Are you part of the 38% of people in DC that live off the ‘gov’t tia’t Cynthia?

Paddy O

June 3rd, 2011
8:55 pm

kammy, really need to loosen those panties, take em off your head, you are now losing valuable oxygen. BTW, great on point response! Also – would you prefer San Jose to Monterey?


June 3rd, 2011
9:09 pm

Also – would you prefer San Jose to Monterey?


The MLS team Earthquakes play in San Jose.

Plus they have this neat little Jazz Fest every August that used to be free that features mostly locals plus one or two national acts, but it’s only been the past couple of years that they started charging a fee to attend. It’s a month or so before the Monterey Jazz Festival so I think it was a tune-up for the locals.


June 3rd, 2011
9:16 pm

Kammy, soooo we tried legalizing illegals……what did it fix???? Nothing!!!! So your answer is “Do the same again???”
That is the definition of stupidity….. “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result!!”
Build a strong fence….build a moat and fill it with gaters if it will help (Obozo suggested it!). Just stop the invasion!!!
It, of course, will never happen. With each new illegal Democrats see a potential new voter!!!!


June 3rd, 2011
9:32 pm

So your answer is “Do the same again???”


Geez, don’t you guys ever read?

I’ll post — yet again— a very poignant piece from 2007 from our hostess that sums up exactly my sentiments about this. (emphasis mine)

…here’s some counterintuitive advice for the Democratic ranks: Don’t hedge. Lead. Do the right thing. Come out clearly and forcefully for putting illegal immigrants already in the country on a path to citizenship. This is no time to trim or triangulate. Show some spine. America is ready for reasoned leadership on this issue.

…So let the GOP be the party of fear and division. Democrats ought to stand for something else. The modern Democratic Party also made its choice in the 1960s, choosing hope over fear, tolerance over division and the beloved community over bigotry.

…This is no time for Democrats to turn their backs on that heritage. America is too generous and compassionate to expel millions of productive and otherwise law-abiding people. The nation has taken advantage of their labor for decades, and it would be inhumane (and outrageously expensive) to round them up and send them back.

But Americans also want to be assured that this is the last time a broad legalization option is offered to illegal immigrants. Democrats ought to make it clear that they’ll enforce the borders and crack down on employers who hire illegally, a cheaper and more effective strategy for addressing the problem than building fences. After a few CEOs have done the perp walk for illegal hiring, they’ll stop offering jobs to those without proper documents. And when word gets across the border that U.S. companies have stopped hiring, those laborers will stop coming. They come for jobs, after all, not jihad.

This is a win-win platform. Not only is it wise and honorable, calling on the highest ideals of a nation of immigrants, it can also produce victories at the ballot box. Last week, Virginia Democrats made gains in state and local elections even though the state has been embroiled in fiery debate over illegal immigration. As an analysis by the Washington Post concluded, voting trends didn’t benefit “those who campaigned the loudest for tough sanctions against illegal immigrants.”

Let Republicans take the low road. It doesn’t end in a place the rest of the country wants to go.

Ms. Tucker — it would really help if you would repost this every time you do one of these IA threads.

Just suggestin’.


June 3rd, 2011
9:39 pm

Newsflash, if your business plan includes breaking the law, maybe you should rethink things….

If the farmers really need migrant labor, then go through the proper channels and get them work permits.

Nice segway though, tying illegal immigration with global warming. Hadn’t seen that one before….

Lil' Barry Bailout

June 3rd, 2011
9:40 pm

Kamchak: it’s only the past year or so that you get all poutragey

Guess Kammy missed the opposition to W’s amnesty trial balloon.

Lil' Barry Bailout

June 3rd, 2011
9:42 pm

Sorry to have deprived you of your opportunity to gratify yourself with the predictable “it’s only in the past year or so” race-card-playing.


June 3rd, 2011
9:44 pm

Guess Kammy missed the opposition to W’s amnesty trial balloon.

No, but the silence was deafening from 1986 until then, though.

Mary Elizabeth

June 3rd, 2011
10:30 pm

We are all one, spiritually, and we are all interconnected in need. When will we learn?


June 3rd, 2011
11:35 pm

So cammie,
Different, only the same!!! Give me a break!! ITS ESSENTUALLY THE SAME!!! The only difference is the “WE PROMISE NOT TO DO IT AGAIN??”
Close the borders – according to Obozo they have done that, apparently all those bodies coming from south of the border are just figments!!
Crack down on employers??? Obozo’s justice department is working as hard as it can to block states from doing just that (Arizona and North Carolina for example).
Stop offering jobs to those without proper documentation?? Comrade Holder is blocking states from access to the EVerify system to prevent their checking compliance!!!
“The same, only different!!!”
Woy need to be writing responses for the Weiner Man!!!


June 4th, 2011
3:11 am

My first job was working in the fields in Toombs county(Vidalia). When I was 14 and 15 years old back in the late 1970’s, I worked in the onion and tobacco fields in the summer from sunup to almost sundown 6 days a week (Sunday off for church). The money I made from those 2 summers paid for my first car when I turned 16. There weren’t any illegal aliens so the kids from school did the work. I learned a work ethic cropping tobacco and picking up onions after they were harrowed up. I also picked and silked corn, dug up peanuts and potatoes in the neighbors gardens so my mother could can vegetables. I also remember going to the swimming hole after a long day in the fields and having the tar from the tobacco plants turning my fingernails black until the field was cleared. I would make $100 a week. We do not need a slave labor class to work in the fields.
The only reason CT Soros is stating this is for the benefit of the Dems.

Illegal is illegal.

Bud Wiser

June 4th, 2011
6:20 am

Quite simply, this is just another example of a poor media stooge using what they call for brains as a rationalization to keep their new potential party members here. With ACORN already no doubt hard at work, many have probably voted already.

Tucker, encouraging…, saying that people MUST break the law to satisfy your political agenda is sickening.

I am surprised that you haven’t tried to equate the illegals issue with the black civil rights issue, or have you?

I’m getting bored with Bookman and his weirdness. He doesn’t ever think plays an issue in Democrat politics, only Republicans are racist, but of course you think race plays a role in every aspect of life. Just thought I’d hold my nose over here a minute.

Hey, how’s that high profile Washington job thing you were supposed to take a couple years ago going, anyway?

David Granger

June 4th, 2011
7:48 am

We don’t need illegal workers at all, Cynthia. All we need to do is let the farmers go to the closest State Employment Office, tell the personnel there that they have jobs for the next two months, and then all the people collecting unemployment are either required to go pick peaches, watermelons, corn, soybeans, etc. or else their unemployment checks stop immediately.
And for the chicken processors up in Gainesville, they’ll eventually be forced to pay a high enough hourly rate that American citizens will take the jobs. The price of chicken will go up at the supermarket…but then the rest of us will not be stuck with the cost of paying for illegals to get medical care in emergency rooms (with all those “pseudo emergencies” that get treated there), our tax money won’t be spent to educate illegal aliens’ kids, they won’t be eligible for our social services net (food stamps, welfare, AFDC, etc.) and we won’t be paying to have to translate everything under the sun into several different languages. Not to mention the fact that we could then enforce our borders, and our laws would not be so flagrantly and openly violated.
It would all balance out in our favor.

j bone

June 4th, 2011
9:01 am

come on cynthia i would have thought you were going to spew about this is the modern day slave oh sorry thier not black


June 4th, 2011
9:20 am

“They dare not admit that they need the sweat and toil of migrant laborers so much that they are not always fastidious about searching for legal documents.”

idle hands are the devil’s workshop. we have plenty of those in georgia’s penal system. they live off the sweat and toil of american workers.

send them to pick the crops.


June 4th, 2011
9:56 am

Illegal immigrants are cool. They’re here. Shake some hands and get to know them. You will be delighted at their ethics and cultural mores.

Introduce yourself to an illegal immigrant: You’ll have a Baja Moment!!


June 4th, 2011
11:54 am


I’m melting…melting…melting….


June 4th, 2011
12:32 pm

nasonlead, just think of the money you would be ahead on, had you paid a living wage to Americans. Rather then import foreign workers, you would have had no living, transportation or other H2a requirements. Plus the American workers would have spent or invested their entire income in your community. Insourcing is as bad as outsourcing. If you can’t get American workers, it is because your not paying enough. 9.50/hr based on production is unfair and you know it.