Monday, April 04, 2011

As states debate strict immigration bills, farmers oppose them and call for federal reform instead

Agricultural interests are leading the opposition to Arizona-like immigration bills in several states, The Wall Street Journal reports. "Farmers in states from Florida to Indiana are pressuring—and in some cases persuading—state politicians to rethink proposed legislation that would authorize crackdowns on illegal immigration," Cameron McWhirter and Jennifer Levitz write. "They argue that the legislation will drive Mexican workers out of their states, and that there aren't enough American workers willing to pick crops."

The farmers are calling for federal-level immigration reform, "which wouldn't favor one state over another," McWhirter and Levitz report. The National Conference of State Legislatures says at least 25 states are considering crackdowns on illegal immigration. "Nobody wants illegal immigrants, but when you get down to the reality of the situation, farmers have to have workers to do the job," Roberta, Ga., peach and pecan farmer Al Pearson told the reporters, who write that his view is "The current federal system, involving approvals from multiple agencies, is slow and can't process enough legal workers for the state's large agricultural industry."

"There is no farm in this county that could continue without Mexican labor," Robert Ray, a Crawford County farmer and former head of the Georgia House Agriculture Committee. Still, some lawmakers aren't buying the farmers' argument. "I think the dirty little secret in agriculture is that farmers intentionally hire illegal immigrants, and they hide behind the Washington, D.C., gridlock as an excuse to justify their lawbreaking," Indiana Republican State Sen. Mike Delph told the Journal. (Read more)

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