Farmers are strongly opposed to a new bill that would require them to verify the immigration status of their workers. According to The New York Times, the bill proposed by Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX) would demand farmers to use E-Verify (a federal database backed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security) to check new hires.
This bill is incredibly unpopular among farmers because it is widely known that many of their workers have falsified documents. Smith, who is also the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, defended his bill, saying that it could open up millions of jobs for unemployed Americans and legal workers. But Paul Wenger, who is the president of the California Farm Bureau, rejected the notion, saying people just don’t want to do farm work. “They don’t want to pick berries. They don’t want to pick lettuce,” he said. “And the pay is just as good as working at the hamburger shop or making up hotel rooms, but they just don’t want to do the work.” Wenger added that Smith’s proposed bill could potentially drive farmers, who traditionally support the Republican party, to vote for Democrats.
The $390 billion agriculture industry could be crippled should Smith’s bill pass. “This would be an emergency, a dire, dire situation,” Nancy Foster, president of the U.S. Apple Association, told The New York Times. “We will end up closing down.” Most growers favor measures that would at least temporarily grant undocumented farmworkers legal status.
George Bonacich, an apricot farmer in California who employed up to 100 farmhands this year, told the newspaper that worrying about finding legal workers would add another variable to a farmer’s bottom line. “Out here, we count the money by the minute,” the 81-year-old said. “And if we don’t have the labor and we don’t have the people in the fields, a couple of days can make all the difference.”