No Illegal Aliens Equals Disaster for Farmers?
A news conference featuring the secretaries of homeland security and commerce yesterday sent shockwaves through agribusiness yesterday.
Facing the prospect of major layoffs of farmworkers during harvest season, growers and lawmakers from agricultural states spoke in dire terms yesterday about new measures by the Bush administration to crack down on employers of illegal immigrants. “This is not just painful, this is death to the American farmer,” Maureen Torrey, who runs a family dairy and vegetable farm in Elba, N. Y., said in a telephone interview.
What is this dire plot inflicted by the evil Bush administration?
Under the new rules, employers will have 90 days to resolve discrepancies between Social Security numbers provided by their workers and the records of the Social Security Administration. If the employers cannot obtain valid Social Security information for an employee within three months after receiving a notice of any discrepancies, they must fire the worker. Illegal immigrants often present false Social Security numbers on job applications.
So . . . they have three months to ensure that their workers are actually who they claim to be?
Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, who has worked closely with growers, described the new enforcement as a “catastrophe.” “The crisis is that crops will not be harvested,” Mrs. Feinstein said.
Employers in low-wage industries were critical but guarded, reluctant to admit openly that they hire illegal immigrants. Randel K. Johnson, a vice president of the United States Chamber of Commerce, said the measures were “one more kick in the pants” for meat-packing, construction and health care companies that employ immigrant workers in unskilled jobs.
Farmers were less shy, saying at least 70 percent of farmworkers are illegal immigrants.
So, basically, they’re wantonly breaking the law and whining about being given 90 days to comply?
Unlike the silly omnibus bill that was the focus of so much political controversy the last few months, these crackdown will force us to actually deal with the real issues. The bottom line is that major sectors of our economy depend on low wage workers. We’re going to have to either learn to get by without them and pay much higher prices to attract legal workers, substitute with imports from low wage countries, or figure out a way to legally admit tens of thousands more workers.