Thursday, October 6, 2011

Report: Georgia immigration law could cause severe damage to state's economy

Posted By on Thu, Oct 6, 2011 at 2:20 PM


A new report by the Center for American Progress, a liberal policy group, says Georgia's immigration law — and efforts to remedy the labor shortage it's thought to have caused on farms — could cause severe damage to the state's economy

Written by Tom Baxter, a veteran Georgia journalist who's now a fellow at the University of Kansas' Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics, the report bills itself as a warning for lawmakers considering legislation similar to the Peach State's. It also looks at the short- and long-term effects of the law, which was enacted in April despite opposition from farmers and growers.

Among the findings: Migrant workers scared off by the law are unlikely to be replaced in the fields by U.S. citizens, as lawmakers had hoped, since very few can keep up with the grueling conditions and long shifts. And the cost of replacing those workers with machines, which some supporters of the law have proposed, could "sink most small farms." (What's more, handpicked crops, which require skilled workers, are more lucrative. "An acre of any of the most prominent handpicked crops... is worth much more than the most valuable machine-picked crops," says the report. "Watermelon, for example, is worth 7.5 times as much as the most valuable machine-picked crop, peanuts.")

So what to do?

Says the report:

First is a narrow solution addressing the unique concerns of the agricultural industry that has been on the table for 10 years in the form of a federal bill known as Ag JOBS. It would enable the current undocumented agricultural workforce to earn legal status and create a stable, legal, protected temporary labor force into the future. This legislation has received bipartisan support in the past, as well as the support of growers and farmworker groups.

The second option is federal immigration reform legislation that addresses the current undocumented population, future legal immigration, border security, and Georgia shows that the current migrant labor system is unstable and deeply affected by the legislative currents of individual states. It is the only long-term solution to the manifold challenges presented by our broken immigration system. Agriculture presents a discreet set of challenges but they are only a subset of a broader array of workforce and integration concerns related to large-scale undocumented migration.

Read it in in full here.

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