Versions of an extreme immigration law — written by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach — has led to fear and an exodus of Latino workers in states like Alabama, Georgia, and Arizona. After watching their crops rot due to a lack of workers in 2011, many farmers are uncertain of what to do in 2012 if they cannot find enough laborers again. Even apple farmers in Washington state were hurt by harmful anti-immigrant laws in other states.
But rather than follow Arizona’s model and run undocumented immigrants out of the state, Kansas Agriculture Secretary Dale Rodman is seeking a waiver from the federal government so that companies can hire undocumented workers.
According to the Topeka Capital-Journal, Rodman’s goal is “to create a legal, straightforward manner of organizing existing immigrant labor.” He has met with the Department of Homeland Security several times about creating a pilot program to connect employers with undocumented workers through a state-organized network. “I need a waiver,” Rodman told the Associated Press. “It would be good for Kansas agriculture.” Now, details are expected to come out this week about a bill that would create Rodman’s idea of a state-managed worker program:
Mike Beam, senior vice president of the Kansas Livestock Association, said the objective was to secure a reliable, regulated labor pool to the state’s businesses. Despite the recession, there are counties in rural Kansas with unemployment rates half the state average. [...]
Sen. Mark Taddiken, a Clifton Republican and chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said the state’s labor force needed to be solid to allow agricultural production to expand.
“They’re having trouble finding people,” Taddiken said. “The agricultural sector is looking for reliability.”
Rodman said he would not promote the bill and instead continue to focus on working with the Department of Homeland Security, which has so far neither approved or rejected the idea. And similar to Kansas’ plan, a lawmaker in New Mexico also proposed a state guest worker program in that state to handle the issue of undocumented workers.