I previously blogged on the pros and cons of the mandatory use of E-Verify after the introduction of H.R. 2164, the Legal Workforce Act, which would mandate employment verification through the use of the Department of Homeland Security’s E-Verify® electronic employment verification system. Recently Florida Trend’s Will Gorham featured an excellent article by Kevin Bouffard on the growing concerns the Florida Citrus Industry has expressed over national and state-wide efforts increasingly focused on enforcing immigration laws, while comparable efforts for immigration reform that would provide the labor needed by industries like agriculture remain deadlocked. Bouffard’s article keenly highlights how the polarized debate on illegal immigrants and the U.S. Immigration system has affected Florida business. Bouffard reports that Florida citrus growers feel that this year’s labor shortage was a consequence of a national and local political discussion focused only on aggressive enforcement of immigration laws, as a result of which, many of laborers left the state. Bouffard’s states:
The [labor] shortage occurred — not coincidentally, many Florida citrus people said — as the Legislature was debating an Arizona-style immigration law that included mandatory e-Verify use, among other restrictions.”
Earlier this year, a state initiative promoted by Governor Rick Scott to mandate the use of E-Verify® by Florida employers failed to garner the necessary support in the Florida legislature. However, it is anticipated that such initiatives will be introduced during future legislative sessions. Much is reported on the effects of illegal immigrants on our health care system, national security and educational system. However, Bouffard’s article sheds light on a point that is oft-ignored: immigrants, including illegal immigrants contribute to our economy and society. The experience of the Florida Citrus Industry lends support to the argument that there are in fact jobs that Americans are unwilling to do, even if we deport all illegal aliens and close down the borders. It is naive to think that a deport-them-all approach without meaningful immigration reform that allows reasonable options for individuals and employers is a workable scheme.