Last month, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed a draconian law intended to keep undocumented immigrations from working in that state. As a result, Georgia is now facing a farm labor shortage of close to 11,000 jobs — and Gov. Deal is proposing a unique solution to the labor shortage:
I asked Department of Corrections Commissioner Brian Owens and Commissioner Black to review the current situation and offer possible options. Commissioner Owens has indicated that there are 100,000 probationers statewide, 8,000 of which are in the Southwest region of the state and 25 percent of which are unemployed. Commissioner Owens is working with Commissioner Black and other state agencies to connect unemployed probationers — especially those in the Southwest part of the state — and others who are preparing to reenter the workforce to employers who are seeking labor.
Advocates of harsh anti-immigrant laws frequently claim that such laws are necessary to prevent undocumented workers from taking Americans’ jobs. Indeed, this is the driving value behind the House Reclaim American Jobs Caucus, a coalition of right-wing lawmakers formed to combat “the direct link between unemployment and illegal immigration.” Watch:
Georgia’s experience, however, gives the lie to their claim. Unemployment among former inmates is both a serious problem and a leading cause of recidivism, but the fact that Georgia farms can’t find anyone to pick their crops shows that U.S. citizens have little interest in backbreaking migrant farm labor. 11,000 workers left Georgia, and the state now has to beg convicts to take these jobs.
Moreover, if Georgia can’t find a way to clean up the mess Gov. Deal’s law has made quick, the state could lose even more jobs. The Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Grower Association reports that around $300 million worth of crops could rot on the vine if no one can be hired to pick them. As of last month growers only found 30 percent to 50 percent of the workers needed.
In other words, after all that Republicans and advocates of immigration reform have said about illegal immigrants taking American jobs, Georgia’s assault on undocumented workers has only succeeded in proving that the opposite is true.
— Sarah Bufkin