Farmers Aiming For Guest Worker Program
While the bill that seeks to crack down on illegal immigrants is being debated in Congress, farmers in California are trying to find a way to bring foreign guest workers into the United States. They say that it might be the only way for them to stay in business.
For many weeks now, agriculture leaders and farmers have been agonizing over the bill sponsored by Congressional Republicans, which would oblige them and other businesses to check the legal status of their employees through the E-Verify program.
Introduced by Rep. Lamar Smith, a Republican from Texas, the bill has earned a lot of favor from congressional conservatives who say that undocumented immigrants took jobs away from American workers at a time they needed it the most.
However, farmers are saying that they are the ones caught in the middle. They cannot find documented workers who are willing to tend livestock and pick crops. They say that if they use the E-Verify program, it would be very difficult for them, if not impossible, to farm.
The director of labor affairs for the California Farm Bureau Federation, Bryan Little, said, “There is not another labor force out there for our industry other than the one we have now. And taking that away will create huge problems.”
The bill proposed by Smith does offer a couple of concessions to agriculture. For instance, instead of the two-year allowance like most businesses have, it allows farmers up to three years to gradually phase in E-Verify. But leaders in the agriculture industry are saying that it is not enough.