E-Verify, Guest Worker Program, Immigration, Legislation, Opinion/Editorial/Commentary

Editorial: Discussing Immigration, Our Future

From LompocRecord.com, 22 Sept 2011.

The U.S. House of Representatives may be on the verge of considering a farm worker bill that would make the E-Verify process mandatory.

E-Verify is the process by which employers confirm the immigration status of a worker, either through a Social Security number, via Homeland Security, or by other means. E-Verify is available but optional in most states — including California — but has been turned into a mandate in 18 states.

The idea behind the current House legislation is to eliminate the flow of illegal immigrants into U.S. work places. Many experts put the illegal population in the United States at more than 12 million.

The bill’s author, Rep. Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican, calls his proposal a “jobs killer — but only for illegal workers … for American workers, it is a jobs protector.”

Growers in just about every state — including Texas — will probably take exception to Smith’s assertions. California growers, for example, are organizing vigorous opposition to Smith’s bill, at least in its present form. And there is enough GOP opposition to make the legislation a probable non-starter on the House floor.

The reason for that is fairly obvious — most people understand that growing fruits and vegetables, and getting them to market at an affordable price, is almost entirely dependent upon the illegal work force.

Here on the Central Coast, if a mandatory E-Verify frightened off illegal workers, there would likely be more than 10,000 fewer workers in the fields to harvest seasonal crops.

It’s true that some jobless U.S. citizens might jump at the chance to fill in on those jobs — but not many. To entice legal workers into the fields, growers would have to pay higher wages, which would drive up the price of fruits and vegetables at supermarkets — a ramping up of costs that so many American households simply couldn’t afford.

Do not take this as an endorsement of illegal immigration. We understand the word “illegal” completely. But this is not the kind of legislation that will work in everyone’s favor.

Instead, we like the proposal from Rep. Dan Lungren, a Gold River Republican, who insists that any changes in the E-Verify process must include an agricultural guest-worker provision, which has worked in the past and can work now.

In fact, Smith’s bill does make provisions for illegal seasonal farm workers to stay, but to do so, they’d have to return to the same employer every season. Most growers agree that is not practical.

We can imagine, however, that Smith’s legislation — and the fact that it already has more than 60 House members lined up behind in support — offers a splendid opportunity to start a congressional discussion of this nation’s immigration policies, which should include the Obama administration and the courts.

State governments have become more aggressive about enacting anti-illegal immigrant laws, in large part because, although federal law makes crossing borders without the proper documentation illegal, such laws are haphazardly enforced, to put it mildly.

It’s a national issue that increasingly is being handled at the state, and even local levels.

The United States needs a unified immigration policy, with rules that are clear and enforceable. Such a policy must, of economic necessity, include a process by which seasonal farm workers can work at least part of each year here without the fear of being arrested.

As much as some Americans might want to expel all illegal immigrants, doing so would be an economic disaster for this nation, and especially here on the Central Coast.

Source: LompocRecord.com, “Discussing immigration, our future” 22 Sept 2011.

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