The Georgia Farm Bureau has weighed in on the heated debate over what to do about illegal immigration in the state, saying “it is a federal issue, not a state or local issue.”
Meeting at their annual convention on Jekyll Island Tuesday, delegates to the bureau adopted a policy that says the organization opposes “any immigration law that discriminates against the farm worker and puts the farmers of Georgia at a disadvantage to farmers in other states.”
The policy also says “agricultural interests must be considered when immigration legislation is debated.” Georgia’s $65 billion agricultural industry relies heavily on migrant workers.
“We think immigration is a federal issue, and it needs a federal solution,” Jon Huffmaster, the Farm Bureau’s legislative director told the Associated Press. “And we think a patchwork of state laws could cause more problems than it solves.”
The bureau – which represents nearly 400,000 families — staked out its position as a panel of Republican state lawmakers is studying whether to adopt an Arizona-style crackdown on illegal immigration in Georgia.
“I certainly recognize how important agriculture is to the state of Georgia,” said Rep. Matt Ramsey, R-Peachtree City, co-chairman of the Joint House and Senate Study Committee on Immigration Reform. “But I would strongly disagree with any assertion that the state of Georgia doesn’t have a role in addressing the social and economic problems caused by illegal immigration.
“I think it is pretty clear that there is a consensus forming – it is certainly my opinion – that the status quo is absolutely unacceptable. We just can’t continue to wait for the federal government to do something.”
Georgia, meanwhile, is home to more “unauthorized immigrants” than Arizona, according to a U.S. Department of Homeland Security report. The report says 480,000 illegal immigrants were living in Georgia as of January of last year, while 460,000 were in Arizona.