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Feds provide for immigrant farm labor within law

POSTED: December 31, 2011 1:00 a.m.

The visa that is available and has been for decades is the H2A. There is no limit to the number of agricultural workers that can be brought in under it. The only physical limitations under this program are the number that can be properly housed by the applicant.

Did you know that the federal government has special low cost housing and quarters development loans available to farmers who require housing expansion? There are thousands of eligible workers at the border ready to be drafted each year, and they exit the country at the end of the season.

As to the average farmer finding this program useless - they must not have tried it. The average farmer plans his crop input expense nine to 12 months in advance, so why is labor not considered an input?

The H2A requirement to provide housing, food, medical care and transportation to and from the field, along with a minimum wage, does drive up the direct cost somewhat. Some of these are costs that had been pushed by the supposed operator using illegal labor off onto his community indirectly, whether you purchased his product or not. The right to operate a farm or business stops at the edge of your operation.

Why should our children be exposed to diseases like tuberculosis in our schools or unlicensed, untrained vehicle operators on the roads so a business can make a buck? If a subsidy is needed to operate, claim it through the USDA or FSA, not from your neighbors' pockets without them knowing it. Many farmers are using legal labor and it's time some of the cheaters get called out as such, since the retail price is the same for their produce as for the legal operators.

Virtually every scholar or economist who has studied the issue has concluded that immigration grows our economy and negatively impacts the wages of few, if any, U.S. citizen workers. As producers and consumers, immigrants increase both supply and demand from an economic standpoint, definitely a good thing.

Legal immigration is completely different and separate from illegal immigration, which is what HB 87 addressed; it's time to stop confusing the two.

The biblical claims in Friday's letter are twisted out of context. But if anyone needs more, consider the following: "When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God." Leviticus 19:33-34.

This is clear indication that laws are to be applied and followed equally; there is no directive implied or otherwise to treat people differently. The residents in this land are under U.S. laws and so must be illegal visitors.

A solution would be to drop many different visa types and require all businesses to follow H2A requirements, from restaurants to Microsoft. The cost differential of using undocumented labor would be dramatically impacted, so the incentive to use foreign labor would be reduced.

Ray Rodden
Buford



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