DAILY KOS (Markos Entry):
July 6, 2011
A week ago I wrote in The Hill about Georgia’s failed e-verify experiment, with hundreds of millions of crops rotting in the fields because farmers can’t get enough workers to harvest them. In fact, the situation is so dire that the state has even tried to get criminal probationers to fill the gap left by thousands of undocumented workers, all to no avail.
Texas xenophobe Lamar Smith, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, has committed to bringing Georgia’s failed e-verify experiment national, so that we can have billions of crops lay rotting in the fields, decimating fragile rural economies and raising prices at grocery stores for consumers.
Why? So he can take a bat to “illegal” brown people.
Smith has now responded to my column.
In his recent op-ed, “A failed experiment,” (The Hill, June 28) Markos Moulitsas ignores the facts.
I’m sure this will be good.
The Legal Workforce Act could open up millions of jobs for unemployed Americans by requiring all U.S. employers to use E-Verify. According to a recent poll, 82 percent of likely voters support requiring businesses to use E-Verify.
Mr. Moulitsas’s claim that illegal immigrants hold jobs that Americans won’t do is completely false. Statements that Americans are not willing to do these jobs demean the hardworking Americans who actually do this work on a daily basis.
That’s not a fact. That’s an opinion. The Georgia experiment suggests otherwise.
And since we’re now doing legislation based on public opinion, I’m sure a comprehensive immigration reform bill is next on Smith’s agenda. Right?
Millions of Americans hold agricultural jobs. In fact, 50 percent of U.S. agriculture jobs are held by U.S. citizens and legal immigrants.
Good for them. That means half the jobs are not. And guess which half aren’t done by Americans? Here’s a hint: if you can drive a combine to harvest (like wheat), it’s being done by Americans. If you have to sit out in sweltering fields and hand-harvest fragile fruits, it’s being done by brown people.
But even American farm owners risk losing their jobs if they can’t get the workforce to harvest their crops at a competitive price. If they pay McCain-style $50/hour rates to harvest lettuce, that would be great for the workers, but those jobs would last days in the face of cheaper agricultural imports. So those farmers are damned if they do, damned if they don’t, and the end result is the same—another shuttered American farm, and another blow to fragile rural economies.
While it is true that some growers seeking seasonal agricultural labor face a unique difficulty in attracting American workers, the Legal Workforce Act has a longer phase-in for agriculture to help alleviate this issue.
A longer phase-in won’t solve the main problem with agricultural worker shortages, and that’s that few Americans will uproot their families to work underpaid shit jobs with no benefits. Unemployed workers in Oakland won’t go down to Salinas, CA to pick lettuce, or Gilroy to pick garlic, much less unemployed auto workers in Detroit. Again, all we have to do is look at Georgia to see how difficult it is to get Americans to take these jobs. This isn’t a matter of ideological theory. We have a real-world example to look to.
But if farmers really need foreign labor, they can obtain it legally. The H-2A guest worker program for agricultural workers has no numerical limit. However, this program does need to be streamlined to better meet the needs of those who grow our crops.
The H-2A program is an unworkable joke, something even Smith acknowledges.
Congress should pass legislation to require all U.S. employers to use E-Verify. It’s free, quick and easy to use. Persons eligible to work receive immediate confirmation 99.5 percent of the time.
A study by the Department of Homeland Security found that e-verify was only able to suss out undocumented immigrants 46 percent of the time, as it’s unable to determine when a worker is using fraudulent identity information. In other words, an employer has a better chance of picking out ineligible workers by flipping a coin.
It’s interesting that none of the “facts” pushed by Smith rebut my main two points — that the e-verify experiment in Georgia has led to economic catastrophe, and that the system doesn’t even work to begin with.
Republicans are obsessed with punishing those “illegals.” The only question is, how much collateral damage will Americans suffer as a result? Because there’s no painless way to remove “illegals” from our economy.