Democrats are not the only ones to come out in praise of immigrants, documented or not, and the contributions they bring to American communities and pushing back against the increasingly severe anti-immigration legislation being pushed by the right. Farmers across the country are uniting against Rep. Lamar Smith’s (R-TX) E-Verify bill.
The bill would force farmers, and all employers, to verify the legal immigration status of their workers through a database run and managed by the Department of Homeland Security. Farmers worry that if passed they’ll lose workers in an industry that relies on cheap, seasonal and immediate labor and a marketplace accustomed to cheap, immediately available food.
But more importantly, more farmers are seeing the measure as a way to specifically alienate a group of hardworking laborers based on nothing more than personal animus.
Their concerns have gotten the attention of at least a few lawmakers in Washington, leading even Rep. Smith to re-consider the breadth of his original E-Verify bill. According to the New York Times, Smith said he plans to introduce a separate bill to “address the needs of the agriculture industry”. What that bill is remains to be seen. It could propose changes to H-2A, the current federal temporary farm worker program, or it could be to offer a new guest worker program.
As is often the case, once a human face is put on these kinds of measures the tone, and the intentions, can change. Farmers used to represent a solid, and reliable Democratic voting block until Republicans succeeded at campaigning principally on social issues. Perhaps that’s about to change as well.
Photo from barnaby via flickr.