Florida Growers Fear Effects of E-Verify Law

Immigration was a major topic at the recent Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association’s annual meeting in Palm Beach.

“A Look at Labor: Legislation and Regulation,” one of three issues forums at the event, addressed concerns related to a bill being considered in the U.S. House of Representatives that would require growers to verify the citizenship status of all hired laborers through the federal E-Verify database.

Monte Lake, one of the speakers at the labor forum and a Washington, D.C., lawyer, warned that the prospect of an E-Verify law in neighboring Georgia led to a loss of 11,000 agriculture workers in that state, the Palm Beach Post reported.

Rob Williams, director of the Florida Legal Services’ Migrant Farmworker Justice Project, told the forum that 65 percent of workers employed by the Florida agriculture sector are undocumented, and many of these workers’ estimated 35,000 to 40,000 children are U.S. citizens, according to the Post. Williams said it is crucial for the government to establish a system for providing long-term legal status for these workers.

The newspaper reported that Adam Putnam, Florida’s agriculture commissioner, identified labor as the “No. 1 issue facing Florida agriculture” while speaking as part of a conference panel.

Alabama farmers recently met with state lawmakers to voice concerns that if a federal court does not prohibit enforcement of the state’s strict immigration law, Alabama’s agriculture work force will be seriously depleted.