See, this is why I think you create a guest worker program before you kick people out of the country:
After enacting House Bill 87, a law designed to drive illegal immigrants out of Georgia, state officials appear shocked to discover that HB 87 is, well, driving a lot of illegal immigrants out of Georgia.
It might be funny if it wasn’t so sad.
Thanks to the resulting labor shortage, Georgia farmers have been forced to leave millions of dollars’ worth of blueberries, onions, melons and other crops unharvested and rotting in the fields. It has also put state officials into something of a panic at the damage they’ve done to Georgia’s largest industry.
Georgia needs about 11,000 low-skill low-wage workers to harvest its crops. They can now find only a fraction of the hands they need, thanks to illegals leaving the state. The governor — being a politician — is unable to admit that they fucked up and is suggesting that they hire convicted criminals (seriously). Georgia farmers could raise wages to hire Americans, but that would make their crops more expensive than neighboring states.
In short, they’re fucked.
First thought: this just shows how badly our system of unemployment and food stamps and other aide needs to be overhauled. Many people who are out of work won’t take these jobs because the pay would not make up for the loss of governments benefits. I’m in favor of keeping people from starving when they’re out of work but it should be child’s play to taper those benefits so that work, any work, always pays. And work is work. If someone is out of work, they should be willing to take any job they can find. I know picking onions isn’t on anyone’s career path. I would be miserable doing unskilled labor. But if I were hiring and heard someone had made ends meet by working a farm in the hot Georgia sun, I’d be more impressed.
(I’m under no delusion that this attitude is common. Our country has come to prize career path and “relevant experience” over fortitude, commitment, responsibility and a good work ethic.)
Second, it’s worth re-iterating what I’ve said before on the subject of immigration. Rather than just restate it, I’ll just quote myself:
When it comes to immigration, most people’s priority is to “seal the border”. Whether this is wise or not, I’m dubious that it’s even possible. Penn and Teller demonstrated that it takes minutes for illegals to tunnel under, cut through or climb over a border fence. We have a very very long border with Mexico and our attempts to seal the border are always and must be reactive—responding to new ways people find to get in after they’re already here.
No, the first step in fixing our immigration problem has to be the creation of a guest worker program—a way for people to easily, cheaply and legally come into this country for temporary or seasonal work. Such a system would work the problem, producing gigantic immediate benefits:
1) It would stem the flow of illegals across our border by shunting the otherwise law-abiding into the guest worker system. This would make it much easier to seal the borders. Think of it as diverting the river before you damn it.
2) It would shift millions of immigrants from violent coyotes to safe border guards and immigration officials, depriving drug gangs and other thugs of money, victims and smugglers.
3) It would make it easier for people to leave their families in Mexico, since they know they will be going back. This would alleviate the mythical “anchor baby” problem while giving Mexicans an incentive to improve their own country.
4) It could raise revenue. If people are willing to pay coyotes $1700 to smuggle them into this country, will they not be willing to pay $1000 to come in legally? Or $500? We could be talking about a few billion in revenue, enough to help fund the border patrol and pay for the necessary bureaucracy.
5) Call it the Law of iTunes: when you make it relatively easy to obey the law, people will obey it rather than break it. When businesses can hire immigrants above board, when immigrants can work without fear, that creates a massive incentive to obey the law. Illegal immigration will never completely vanish. But this would reduce it dramatically and allow us to concentrate our efforts on people we really really don’t want in this country—like violent psychotic criminals.
6) Part (5) will have the side effect of sending illegals currently in this country back to Mexico. Once there is an easy legal way to hire immigrants for temporary work, the labor market for illegals will dry up. Without work, many will head back to Mexico to get in line.
7) With workers properly documented, this will make it much harder for them to vote in our elections or collect social benefits.
Part (6) is appealing to me personally. As the husband of a legal immigrant, I don’t want illegals jumping the line.
Our current immigration law makes it almost impossible for our country to get the low-wage workers it needs and makes it almost impossible for people to come here legally for low-wage work. The line for visas in Mexico is over a million names long. That’s not because of Mexican bureaucracy; that’s because of our insanely complicated and arbitrary immigration laws.
Georgia has now clearly demonstrated why we need to fix the immigration law before we enforce anti-illegal statutes. They have crippled their agricultural industry and political stubbornness prevents them from going back on their bad decision. Let’s not follow their example. Let’s fix the law first.