Despite warnings from the business community, Georgia passed a harsh immigration measure similar to Arizona’s SB 1070. Local business interests warned legislators the bill, which allows for stops and detentions based on a suspicion that a person is in the country illegally, would drive critical workers from the state, negatively impacting the state’s key agricultural industries.
According to CNN, those predictions appear to be coming true.
Growers in the state say that many migrant workers are bypassing the state. And that means growers are in a scramble to get fruits and vegetables picked before they rot. Early estimates by the local growers association place the losses at about $250 million for this year alone.
By some estimates, migrant crews are down as much as 50% simply because people are afraid to come. Supporters of the measure say that is proof the bill is working because it is obviously deterring undocumented workers from the state.
But those who actually work in the agriculture business say otherwise. A migrant worker, in the country legally, can be detained on police suspicion. Those detentions can take several hours, if not days, to verify a worker’s legal immigration status. But by the time that has happened that worker has not reported to his or her job, resulting in their termination. Once their work is terminated their visa is no longer valid, effectively turning a legal immigrant into an illegal one.
For many migrant workers such a possibility is simply too much to risk and so they find work elsewhere.
With economic recovery in many states barely sputtering along, can we really afford this kind of misinformed and ill-intentioned economic policy? If you ask the business community in Georgia, the answer is pretty clearly no.
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photo courtesy of Barnaby via Flickr