The Legal Workforce Act, a bill that is currently being considered by the U.S. House of Representatives, would have a significant impact on the agricultural industry in California, The Santa Ynez Valley Journal reported.
The bill, which has been seen as a way to expel illegal immigrants from the labor force, was promoted and co-authored by California Representative Elton Gallegly and has brought the lawmaker much criticism from the agricultural industry in his state.
The agricultural industry in California consists of both large organizations and small businesses that have a limited number of workers. Both groups rely on relatively cheap labor to turn a profit, and the passage of the bill would force these firms to verify the immigration status of all new hires through E-Verify, an electronic system that is under control of the Department of Homeland Security.
Brian Little, director of labor affairs for the California Farm Bureau Federation, noted that the passage of this legislation would cripple the industry in his state, and hurt both large and small-scale farmers.
"If this passed on a Monday, we won’t have a labor force on Tuesday," Little said about the proposal.
This adjustment to federal employment law would likely have far-reaching consequences in California, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that as much as 70 percent of workers in the industry lack documentation.
"They sent their people out and they lasted a couple of hours because they said it was too hard," Santa Barbara County Ag Commissioner Cathy Fisher said of attempts to recruit temporary workers at farms in her state. "I’ve also heard of fields going fallow for fear the growers would not have the labor."
Farmers in the state could be crippled by the law, as they will not only lose a large percentage of their workforce, but they will have to devote resources to determine if their workers are in fact legal in an age when false identification papers are easy to acquire.