If you aren't familiar with E-Verify, it's "an Internet-based system that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States." Efforts to require businesses to use it are being waged at the state level across the country—and at the federal level. The problem for anyone concerned about jobs or food security—or about eating locally-produced food—is that the program threatens to deport, along with undocumented workers, all the agriculture that they currently labor to produce for the country.Critics of the plan are concerned not only about the stability of agricultural production itself and the jobs that creates, but also about the jobs created indirectly by farm labor.
Immigration reform organization America's Voice wrote:
The Republicans' vision for E-Verify would gut the entire sector, leaving food to rot in the fields, driving up prices for American consumers, and outsourcing even more of our food supply and food security. Given that the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that for every on-farm job in America, there are about 3.1 "upstream" and "downstream" jobs in the nation, the accelerated movement of U.S. agriculture overseas would lead to increased unemployment for Americans as well.
"It's ironic that the so-called 'pro-business party' is pushing a policy that would decimate one of the key sectors of the American economy," said Frank Sharry, America's Voice executive director.
And it wouldn't come for free, or even for cheap: according to research by Bloomberg, a mandatory E-Verify system would cost small businesses (small being fewer than 500 workers) $2.6 billion nationwide. And if all employers were mandated to participate, the program would have cost $2.7 billion in fiscal 2010.
Some "free" program.
The Washington Post quotes Craig J. Regelbrugge, vice president of the American Nursery & Landscape Association: "Any E-Verify expansion that comes without meaningful immigration reform would be disastrous for the American agricultural economy... It will leave the United States importing food and exporting jobs."
More on agriculture and labor in the U.S.
The TH Interview: John Bowe, Author of "Nobodies: Modern American Slave Labor and the Dark Side of the New Global Economy"
5 Questions You Didn't Know You Should Ask at the Farmers' Market
United Farm Workers to America: Take Our Jobs (Updated, with VIDEO)
Two Victories in One Week for the Coalition of Immokalee Workers - Are More Needed?