Immigrants arriving to US in hopes to find work may find themselves running into difficulty in the California agricultural industry. The Obama administration has proposed a system that would require American business people to process all employees through program known as E-verify. The program is designed to provide employers with confirmation that their employees are legally qualified to work within the United States. Using the program would mean that every employee would have to hold a temporary work permit or work visa prior to employment.
However, leaders in the agricultural industry believe that utilizing such a program would be disastrous for the industry. In the United States, the agricultural industry is fueled by illegal immigrants. In fact, of the workers in the fields, 80 percent are illegal immigrants. If the new immigration policy becomes a mainstay, farmers would face a tough decision between not having enough workers or facing jail time.
Unfortunately, the agriculture industry reports that American workers seem unwilling to accept the jobs currently held by the immigrant population. Members of the California agricultural industry believe that US citizens are not willing to do the same backbreaking work for such meager wages. In fact, in 2010 farm workers staged a campaign called “Take Our Jobs”. The program was designed to bring American workers into the fields. They received more than 85,000 inquiries, but out of that number only 11 American citizens took jobs.
The agricultural industry in the United States is worth between $5 billion and $9 billion every year. The implementation of new immigration laws would negatively impact farmers and ranchers in the US. Farmers often hire their staff on-the-fly when they’re in a hurry to harvest crops. Requiring them to stop to verify a work visa for everyone would end up costing money. One citrus farmer told reporters that employing the E- verify system would either shut down the industry or land US farmers and ranchers in prison.
Source: Contra Costa Times, “Ag industry faces labor woes in immigration debate,” Alicia A. Caldwell, 04 Jun, 2011