The Valdosta Daily Times
Gov. Nathan Deal and state officials have created a mess for farmers with the stricter laws on immigration.
Regardless of how you feel about illegal or migrant workers, the truth is that our country has depended on this supply of cheap labor for decades in order to keep food prices low. Farmers are not rich corporations. They cannot afford to pay what most would consider a living wage for picking produce without substantial effects on the prices.
No one is arguing that the illegal immigrant issue is unimportant or that it doesn’t need to be addressed, but address it in an intelligent, thoughtful manner, not a knee jerk reaction to political pressure.
The governor is now commissioning studies to see what effects the new legislation is having. Not liking the answers, the newest knee jerk reaction this week was to suggest that parolees can do the work just the same.
Does that mean he now wants to rid Atlanta of its former prison population and unload them on South Georgia?
Meanwhile, it’s harvest time. Crops are ready to be picked. Farmers don’t have the time to be babysitters or parole officers. So maybe this wasn’t such good timing for Georgia to suddenly get anti-immigrant fever.
Maybe this should have been prepared for, with farmers’ input. Maybe the state should have discussed the ramifications with those directly affected. Maybe the immigration issue is not as easy as “send them home,” but is a far more complex one in that maybe Georgia needs them, relies on them, and cannot successfully support the state’s No. 1 economic engine without them.
There aren’t enough parolees to take their place. There aren’t enough teenagers to take their place. Anyone around South Georgia who has a farm already has their kids working on it, folks. It’s naive to think that there is a large supply of hundreds of able bodied young men and women who are physically capable of working 12-hour stretches in 100-degree heat six or seven days a week just waiting to take the place of migrant workers.
There’s a reason these workers are here to begin with. And it’s not just cheap labor; it’s a ready access of skilled, physically strong labor that can withstand the heat. And unless Deal and his cronies can figure out how to replace them and quickly, perhaps all of the legislators who approved this should come down south and take their place.