Georgia Farm Bureau fires a warning shot in state immigration debate

Some tension is building over the Legislature’s push for an Arizona-style approach to illegal immigration. From Ray Henry and the Associated Press:

LYONS, Ga. — Georgia farmers, many of whom are dependent on immigrant labor, have fired a warning shot at state lawmakers considering ways to crack down on illegal immigrants.

Delegates to the Georgia Farm Bureau’s annual convention voted Tuesday to adopt a policy that opposes any state immigration measure that “discriminates against the farm worker” and puts farmers at a competitive disadvantage. The vote marks the first time the Farm Bureau has adopted an immigration policy directed specifically at Georgia state leaders.

“We think immigration is a federal issue, and it needs a federal solution,” said Jon Huffmaster, the Farm Bureau’s legislative director. “And we think a patchwork of state laws could cause more problems than it solves.”

Many farmers are heavily dependent on immigrant labor to harvest crops by hand, particularly vegetables and peaches that are easily bruised and damaged by machines. Huffmaster said farmers in vegetable-growing regions first pushed for the new policy, one of many that was created or revised during the convention at Jekyll Island.

Politicians in Georgia have signaled their willingness to adopt tougher sanctions against the estimated 475,000 illegal immigrants in the state, many of whom work in agriculture. Gov.-elect Nathan Deal, a Republican, said during the campaign that he would support an Arizona-style immigration law. That state approved a measure that requires police officers, when enforcing other laws, to question the immigration status of those they suspect are in the country illegally.

Meanwhile, a committee of Republican lawmakers was created in September to study illegal immigration and its effects on Georgia. The co-chair, Rep. Matt Ramsey, said members will try to fill gaps in state law and add enforcement tools to existing laws.

Ramsey said state officials have been forced to wade into immigration policy because of the federal government’s inaction.

“I would respectfully disagree with any statement that the state has no role in this,” the Peachtree City Republican said. “In my opinion, the status quo is unacceptable, and that is the consensus of the members of the immigration reform committee.”

State Sen. Jack Murphy, a Republican from Cumming and co-chair of the legislative committee on immigration, said he guarantees that farmers’ interests will be taken into account but that the committee would go ahead and propose legislation on immigration at the state level.

“We don’t want to do anything to harm them economically,” he said. “They don’t want a law that’s going to affect them adversely, and that’s understandable. But you can’t just say you don’t want a law, period.”

Jerry Gonzalez, executive director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials, said he was pleased to hear of the Farm Bureau’s vote. He has spoken before the legislative committee, where he argued that an Arizona-style law would seriously harm the state’s agriculture industry.

“I am glad that the Georgia Farm Bureau is looking at this issue very, very seriously,” he said. “Our legislators should focus their power and influence to urge our U.S. Congress to work on a comprehensive immigration package with President Obama. That’s the real solution.”

The political moves in the Statehouse have worried farmers, an important political constituency because agriculture is Georgia’s largest single economic sector. A University of Virginia study found that Prince William County, Va.’s hardball approach to illegal immigrants had reduced their numbers but created an ethnic divide in perceptions of the county.

The conflicts are easy to spot in Lyons, a small town in southeast Georgia where farmers raise Vidalia onions.

Even in the rural countryside, there are enough immigrant workers from Central and South America to support a grocery store and small restaurant on the town’s main drag. It sells phone cards and Spanish-language CDs.

Aries Haygood, 27, said his farm needs 65 field laborers and 50 people working in a packing house during the height of the onion harvest, which starts in late April. Although it’s unclear exactly what state leaders might do, Haygood said any law that scares away immigrant workers could harm the regional economy.

The farmer said he is willing to hire native workers, but not enough people will labor in the fields. He depends on a private company to send migrant workers with visas to man his farming operation.

“If this plan, whatever they decide to come up with, is not 100 percent right, it could cost some farmers their jobs,” Haygood said. “Anytime you start telling folks you can be pulled over and asked about your status and you could be asked to leave, folks will stop coming.”

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider
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96 comments Add your comment

DannyX

December 8th, 2010
10:53 am

Haven’t you heard? The Tea party plans to use its members in Georgia to do all of the harvesting.

They will be down there right after the big Tea Party Oakey Woods robbery protest march.

There are only 3 of them so don’t expect a whole lot of picking. They also demand one sippy straw per day, so stock up.

JP

December 8th, 2010
10:59 am

Interesting to see how this plays out. You can’t say you are tough on immigration or rather illegal immigration and then give some industries that use illegal immigrants a free pass.

Peepeye

December 8th, 2010
11:01 am

Haygood said. “Anytime you start telling folks you can be pulled over and asked about your status and you could be asked to leave, folks will stop coming.”
_______________________________________

Isn’t that the point? We want them to stop coming.

Peepeye

December 8th, 2010
11:10 am

The farmer said he is willing to hire native workers, but not enough people will labor in the fields. He depends on a private company to send migrant workers with visas to man his farming operation.
__________________________________________________

I’m always interested when people tell me that they can’t find people to work. I don’t think that’s true. Why can’t he use that same private company to hire native workers to man his farming operation?

Why? He doesn’t want to and he doesn’t need to.

freeloader farmer

December 8th, 2010
11:23 am

I know ordinary businesses don’t get bailed out like us freeloading farmers but we are privileiged.We threaten our political hack buddies to not vote for them if they don’t continue subsidies from the pockets of hard working taxpayers. Thats just the way it is-special interests!

__|\/|__

December 8th, 2010
11:23 am

A worker with a seasonal worker visa doesn’t get deported. They can cross the border at will, especially now at Christmas!

trueblue

December 8th, 2010
11:26 am

I think it is true, found a company hiring a base worker, had to be drug free, good MVR, and they said 17 people had taken the job and left quickly. You cannot get anyone to work, in fact the one’s standing on the road wanting money, will not work. Farm Bureau is way behind the times in fact the insurance company is not doing very well either…..

What Happened to the Work Ethic?

December 8th, 2010
11:28 am

Hey, Peepeye! I live in the sticks where the unemployment rate is through the roof! Recently, my water line had to be replaced. The only way my local plumber could get any laborers willing to dig the trench for repairs was to hire a couple of Hispanic guys who were willing to use a shovel. He paid them above the prevailing rate and they did a job no unemployed local was willing to do. When I was a kid (many years ago during the Great Depression) I weeded onions on a muck farm for ten cents an hour and was glad to get it. The American work ethic seems to have vanished with unemployment comp, food stamps, and welfare. Some menial jobs need to be done and if “natives” won’t do them because they think it is beneath them I think you are blowing a lot of smoke up the wrong chimney with your suggestion!

DannyX

December 8th, 2010
11:31 am

Now wait just a minute.

We’re told every single day on the ajc blogs that those lazy people are doing nothing but clogging the emergency rooms, where they deal drugs, and steal cafeteria food. They spend the day filling out absentee ballots, and send their kids to our tax supported schools where they gobble up Hope Scholarships, which they then send back to Mexico.

Now we’re being told they actually work?

God Bless America... and no one else

December 8th, 2010
11:35 am

Why are (some) farmers SO hypocritical? I’m from a farming community and own farmland. I’m a conservative who opposes illegal immigration, unfair taxation, and most forms of welfare. If you listen to the talk at my local coffe shop in the morning and bar at night, my pers share the same views….. unless it is their illegal immigants, or their shady tax break, or their farms subsidy (welfare).

shaggy

December 8th, 2010
11:39 am

It looks like I might have “used” to insure my house with them.
Apparently, they think the farmers have some license to break the law and not make sure laborers have seasonal worker visas.
I will switch so fast their head will spin and send them a letter telling them just why.

LukasAtl

December 8th, 2010
11:40 am

Peepeye, are you willing to work out in the hot sun, in the middle of summer, harvesting fruit and veggies.

shaggy

December 8th, 2010
11:41 am

What happened to Work Ethics,

The answer is simple: Entitlements. The loafers don’t have to work to eat. You did.

Laurie

December 8th, 2010
11:41 am

“The farmer said he is willing to hire native workers, but not enough people will labor in the fields. He depends on a private company to send migrant workers with visas to man his farming operation.”

People collecting unemployment should be required to work jobs like this to keep their unemployment. It would be a win-win for everyone.

WAW

December 8th, 2010
11:42 am

Its obvious ain’t many of you regulars here ever “met a payroll” or had to do the “hiring and firing”. Platitudes are great for armchair politicians but don’t go very far in getting the work done.

shaggy

December 8th, 2010
11:43 am

LukasAtl,

If the government was not propping the lazy up, I’ll bet the “farm” that the lazy would work or don’t eat.

Ramguy

December 8th, 2010
11:44 am

What Happened to the Work Ethic?

I was thinking the same thing….only when my waterline had to be replaced I dug the ditch, went to the supply company bought the pipe and glue and put it in myself then covered it and planted the grass myself…..I wonder what happened to that work ethic…I guess some people have to hire people that have that ethic.

shaggy

December 8th, 2010
11:44 am

“seasonal work visas” Look it up, yes they do exist.

Ramguy

December 8th, 2010
11:47 am

Wait for it……there it goes…….we want to get rid of the immigrants but but but but but not if if hurts us personally. We want to keep them….lol

shaggy

December 8th, 2010
11:48 am

It hasn’t changed. “Illegal” is Illegal and “legal” is legal.
If someone wants to get a “seasonal work visa” and do this job for the farmers, by all means that is the legal solution. However, the farmers have to play by the rules and make sure their laborers have at least that to work.

Woody Bass

December 8th, 2010
11:49 am

RE: cant find anyone to do these jobs…

I hate that argument as well.. and whenever I hear it I regularly reply with “Then why was there ONE Janitorial job which reported 750 applicants”.

Nope.. no one wants to do those jobs. Not one of those 750 ppl. 10% of the workforce are too proud to go put their hands up in trees and pull some ripe peaches.

This isnt about whether the labor can be found.. its about the almight-root-of-all-evil… MONEY. Plain and simple. Yes.. there are people who are too proud to take some positions.. .but to insinuate there are not is false and hiding the real truth as to why this issue is being swept under the rug.

no Deal

December 8th, 2010
11:50 am

Deal will back off of that campaign promise faster than George Bush could make a mistake. illegal immigration is and always has been mostly a Republican backed problem for the benefit of the rich. just look at Newt saying this week that we should give up on illegal immigration enforcement and submit to it’s kudzu-like infestation. that kind of defeatism is normally described and pointed out towards others.
illegal immigration should be strongly fought and all immigration be greatly limited. we’re full. we’ve had enough people to steal and settle to ensure permanent take over of the original inhabitants land for quite some time already. we need immigration as much as Europe has needed it recently.
not if but when Latinos near a majority in this country they will treat us a lot differently and it won’t be good.

Tom

December 8th, 2010
11:52 am

Help me understand this, the Georgia Farm Bureau director supports immigrant labor for the crops harvesting. Does he mean LEGAL or ILLEGAL immigrants?? Someone please let me know? I think everytime someone speaks of FEDERAL jurisdiction, it seems they are referring to ILLEGAL immigrants, am I right or wrong. Post these jobs at $8-10 hourly, and see how many American citizens apply!! Jobs should be available for our citizens FIRST!!!!

Range Safety Officer

December 8th, 2010
11:55 am

The Farm Bureau needs to unload and cease fire…don’t care for folks who like to point the gun at them selves! The only reason the Georgia Farmer favors a “federal solution” to illegal immigration is the lack of federal enforcement of the immigration law. These folks are the same people who whine and complain about their taxes going up to support social programs which are over burdened by illegal immigrants. It is these hypocrites which fuel illegal immigration. BobbyRay, I say we ought’ to string up that dare’ fella that takes care of ‘em when they git’s here. How’s that for a solution!

shaggy

December 8th, 2010
11:56 am

no deal,

Uhhh, it’s not about hispanic immigrants and and your hysteria concerning their master plan. It is about respect for the law. Legal = YES Illegal = NO
If it had been enforced to begin with, we wouldn’t have the problems we have now.

bank walker

December 8th, 2010
11:57 am

Tell the farmers to get off their lazy butts, and hire red blooded Americans. I would assume the way the job market is nowadays, they shouldn’t have any trouble finding willing and able workers. If the govt. hadn’t tried to steer this country into laziness, then he would have plenty of help. Now, let’s get rid of all illegals!

Georgian

December 8th, 2010
11:58 am

Obviously, farming in Georgia cannot produce without the immigrant labor. If they were to leave, which is the intention of passing an AZ law, then we are essentially shutting down our number one industry.

shaggy

December 8th, 2010
11:59 am

Once again. Get rid of the entitlements and the lazy will need to work to eat.
If they don’t want to work, because the government gives it to them for life, just how are you going to make it so attractive that they stop watching their big screen TVs and yakking on their cell phones and go to work?

cs

December 8th, 2010
11:59 am

The farmer said he is willing to hire native workers, but not enough people will labor in the fields. He depends on a private company to send migrant workers with visas to man his farming operation

Horsecrap! If you pay enough in wages, you can get more help than you need!

shaggy

December 8th, 2010
12:00 pm

Georgian,

By your twisted logic, because we can’t stop all robberies, we should just accept being robbed. Moron.

Dirty Dawg

December 8th, 2010
12:05 pm

Don’t worry Farmers Bureau, the Republicans will compromise whatever passes for it’s principles if you give them enough money, or threaten them with economic collapse of the system – or you could ‘go to war’, seems like we did that once before over a ‘cheap labor’ issue, and look what that got us. Besides, isn’t that Williams guy with all the power from Lyons? He should be able to ‘fix it’ for you.

Alpha23

December 8th, 2010
12:10 pm

OK, so we have a couple of liberal idiots posting here today!!! DannyX and Peepeye??? We need to check their status!!! They’re probably on welfare or unemployment!! Or so young they don’t really know much about anything!!

WTF

December 8th, 2010
12:12 pm

My experience has been that legal immigrants don’t like illegal immigrants unless they are getting something from them. And I find it funny when young legal immigrants like Bosnians, who came here on refugee status as children, boast as if they suffered some hardship or long wait to get here legally and are thereby critical of the Mexicans. Please. They just got dragged along by their parents just like their central American counterparts.

And what’s with all these eastern Europeans here anyway? The Russians? Are we serious? Aren’t they are mortal enemies we grew up hating? And here they are amongst us probably reporting back to the Kremlin.

Check in the mail

December 8th, 2010
12:18 pm

A friend of mine has been getting an unemployment check for 2 years. He can’t find work in his software profession because companies like Microsoft and Cisco abuse the H1B immigration process. He used to program and work on fault tolerant computers — the kind used at credit card companies, stock exchanges and airlines.

Most people do not even understand the abuses legal immigration does to jobs in this country yet they go on blogs and blame the Mexicans for taking our house-painting jobs. Whatever.

Independent

December 8th, 2010
12:23 pm

Make all farmers use e-verify to check the immigrant status of all workers. Advertise the jobs at $7.25 per hour. There had better be tons of people lining up for these jobs. I worked at a company with about half hispanic workers. We would have two openings, I would hire a Hispanic and a Gringo. After two weeks the Gringo would leave, saying the work was too hard and too dirty. The Hispanic worker would be there, working his butt off for the company. And yes, HE PAID TAXES AND SOCIAL SECURITY AND HAD INSURANCE. I knew one Hispanic worker who worked 80 hours a week for our company and then laid carpet on the side for extra money. ( He was legal, by the way). These are the people you want the throw out of the country? We need to have a good system to make these illegal immigrants into legal immigrants and keep the hard-working, tax-paying, law-abiding people here to add to our economy.

Birddawg

December 8th, 2010
12:26 pm

looks like im gonna have to find me another insurance company !!!!!! anybody got the number for geico or progressive ?

Peepeye

December 8th, 2010
12:27 pm

Peepeye, are you willing to work out in the hot sun, in the middle of summer, harvesting fruit and veggies.
________________________________________________

Sure am. My grandfather was a sharecropper and I’ve picked plenty of cotton, fruits and vegetables. I’m no stranger to hard work.

I do take issue with the belief that you can’t find a “native” who wants to work hard. I don’t believe it.

There are other reasons in play for farmers to use illegal immigrants for farming and it has nothing to do with Americans not wanting to work.

double

December 8th, 2010
12:30 pm

Outsource our jobs.Import our labor.Draw unemployment forever.Just do it legal.

Tom

December 8th, 2010
12:34 pm

INDEPENDENT – You gave yourself away when you used the term”Gringo”, it’s what Mexicans say to Americans when they want to insult them!! Just to refresh your memory stupid, no one objects to LEGALS working in this country. All CITIZENS have that right! I think alot of CITIZENS would jump at the opportunity to make $8-10 hourly in these times, at any job opportunity!!

Garth

December 8th, 2010
12:34 pm

Can’t find “native” workers to fill alien positions? Hogwash. That’s
like Golden Corral refusing to hire native black Americans in favor of hiring illegal immigrants. It’s all about cheap wages and double talk. This state needs immigration reform now–it’s about abiding by federal laws which are being largely ignored by federal agencies and Georgia businesses. Put some teeth in the law to bust thier chops.

Peepeye

December 8th, 2010
12:46 pm

Georgia farmers sound like the men who claim that they can’t find good wives in the United States. They need to import a wife from Mexico, Russia or the Philippines. There are no good women who are eligible to marry in America.

Now everyone knows that isn’t true. There are many eligible women for marriage, but if you want a woman who is subservient, passive, and docile and you can take advantage of them and abuse them, then yes, you might need to import one from another country.

Illegal immigrant workers are the same way. If you need workers who are expendable and work cheap and without any labor rights, then you need illegal immigrants to work your farm.

The only thing they’re doing is outsourcing jobs and importing the underclass.

DannyX

December 8th, 2010
12:53 pm

Shut-out. Blanked. Zeros. Nada.

Oakey Woods, debt raising tax cuts/unemployment cave-in, ignoring immigration law, pork laden appropriations appointment. On top of that you have a bankrupt-ex-Democrat-ethically challenged-career politician-big spending-ex-US Congressman- Nathan Deal (R) announcing lobbyists and insiders galore on his new team.

Meanwhile, Sonny has stuffed himself with everything including the kitchen sink, which he plans on selling as scrap metal, on his way out. Sonny plans to use every single Frequent Flyer mile he earned as Governor, all 22,364,210 of them.

The Tea Party is now on the sidelines. An outsider. Already pushed to the side.

Asterisk status. Its members suffering from Hopey Changey Syndrome.

LisaSue

December 8th, 2010
12:53 pm

My grandfather was a sharecropper as well. When I spent summers in the country, I would volunteer to help in the fields picking peas and cropping tobacco, just to hang with the other teens. Silly me. It was terrible, very long hours and very little pay. It was about 30 years ago, but I can remember working all day in the hot sun, washing your hands in the dirt to remove the sap, and getting maybe $15 dollars at the end of the day. Those of you who say the farmers should just put out an ad are deluding yourselves. In order for the farmer to make a living, they have to pay the field workers next to nothing.

The average American WOULD NOT work under those conditions and for such low pay unless they were starving, and as soon as they filled their belly they’d be out of there as fast as lightening to design a “will work for food” sign…the pay is better. I don’t pretend to know what the solution to the illegal immigration problem is, but unless everyone is willing to pay substantially higher prices for their produce to sustain a $7/hr workforce, farmers will be forced to continue to use illegal immigrants.

Confused

December 8th, 2010
12:54 pm

Remember when the good residents of Cobb County were so upset because supposedly illegals were working on the new court house under construction. Background checks started being conducted on the construction workers. Two black construction workers were arrested on the job. One had an outstanding warrant for back child support. I guess he can catch up on his child support payments while sitting in the county jail. Never in the history of this country have we ever demanded background checks on construction workers. When those smash and grabbers and crack peddlers return to society we set them up to return to jail because of background checks for unskilled labor. The Department of Corrections will always have a loyal customer base. We scream and our politicians react without thinking things through before implementing policies that essentially throw the baby out with the bath water.

Jen

December 8th, 2010
12:56 pm

I just don’t want peaches and other vegs to be $5 -$10 a piece because some people are hateful.

Voice of Reason

December 8th, 2010
1:00 pm

It can be made very complex, but there are some very simple solutions that would solve a multitude of problems and save billions of dollars. Disallow illegals to work. Disallow illegals food stamps, WIC money, and healthcare. No need for a wall, a fence, or a moat…stop the free stuff…they stop coming. Illegals are not entitled to our programs and our jobs anyway. This would plug a huge hole that sucks money. It would also make lots of work available. Then, have stricter verification for millions of legal citizens who are taking federal money as welfare and other programs when they could work. All of those who are ableshould fill the newly available jobs vacated by the illegals. This plugs another huge hole that sucks money. I believe we should provide for the elderly and for those unable to provide for themselves, but those who can should provide for themselves!

Libertarian

December 8th, 2010
1:01 pm

You Republicans kill me. You claim to be Conservatives but don’t even understand the basic principles of Capitalism.

The farmers are saying that they won’t be able to keep migrant work (legal or illegal) if we pass a law that says basically that they can be profiled and harrassed based on the way they look when our neighboring states don’t have those laws.

Why would a migrant farm hand work on a Georgia Farm at the risk of being harrassed by local law enforcement when the local police have no ability to do so in Alabma and South Carolina? This state’s farmers would be at an immediate labor disadvantage.

lmno

December 8th, 2010
1:02 pm

Arrest them because they want to be here?

That doesn’t sound very hospitable.

Travis McGee

December 8th, 2010
1:02 pm

Life is so simple when all you offer is simplistic answers to difficult questions.

That’s why the Tea Baggers and Republicans have no strategy for dealing with 21st century problems except to go back to the 20th century and insist on tax cuts for the rich and big businesses promising that the rest of us would benefit from being “tinkled on.”

I was there when Reagan tried it. It didn’t work for him and it won’t work for the Republicanized Tea Baggers.

Douglas

December 8th, 2010
1:09 pm

Perhaps we should just deport anyone whose family wasn’t on these shores before 1492.