Friday, August 28, 2015

Immigration stances of Republican presidential candidates could hurt agricultural industry

Proposed immigration plans by Republican presidential candidates could damage the agricultural business, which employs many of the 11 million illegal immigrants, reports Agri-Pulse. "Donald Trump’s immigration agenda is pushing the Republican debate well to the right and raising concerns in the agribusiness sector. Other candidates immediately started one-upping him. Neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who is running second in recent Iowa polls, said he’d consider military drone strikes on the border. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum suggested suspending authorization for Mexican border crossings." At the same time, the most immigration-friendly candidates—Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio—"are struggling to gain any traction."

"Much of the debate since Trump’s campaign posted his proposals has focused on his calls to end birthright citizenship and to force Mexico to pay for completing a border wall, while his proposal to make E-Verify mandatory nationwide has been portrayed in the media and among Republican pundits as a no-brainer, a requirement that could be imposed relatively painlessly," reports Agri-Pulse. "But mandatory E-Verify has potentially far-reaching implications for agriculture because of its heavy reliance on workers who would likely be flagged as ineligible to work."

"So far, farm group lobbyists have been able to keep mandatory E-Verify legislation bottled up in the House," reports Agri-Pulse. "An E-Verify bill (HR 1147) hasn’t gone anywhere since it emerged from the Judiciary Committee in March. But fending off such bills will be a lot harder if a Republican wins the White House running on a platform that includes mandatory E-Verify."

Frank Gasperini, executive vice president of the National Council of Agricultural Employers, "estimates that making E-Verify checks mandatory would cost agriculture as much as half of its workforce," reports Agri-Pulse. " It’s an open secret that the documentation that many workers supply to employers is false. It might be sufficient for filing an employment documentation form called an I-9, but it’s presumed that using E-Verify would expose the documentation as false."

Gasperini said that "For an industry where labor shortages can reach 20 percent, the losses from E-Verify 'would be disastrous.'" reports Agri-Pulse. "Some farmers could presumably make up some of the losses by using the H-2A visa program to import temporary workers legally—there is no cap on the number of visas—but that wouldn’t help dairy producers and others who need year-round labor, Gasperini says. And while there are proposals to expand visa programs for low-skill workers, it would take years for the government to ramp them up, he said." Agri-Pulse is subscription-only but offers a four-week free trial.

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