Immigration Reform: The Only Way to Solve America’s Agricultural Woes

By Knox Robinson 10-18-2012
Photo: Migrant farm workers in California, spirit of america / Shutterstock.com

Photo: Migrant farm workers in California, spirit of america / Shutterstock.com

America is in dire need of comprehensive immigration reform. It is an ethical and moral issue for sure, but it is also an economic one. Our nation’s future economy prosperity depends on migrant labor. Immigration laws that have been passed in states like Arizona, Georgia, and Alabama have severely hurt the state economies, local communities, and small businesses that rely upon migrant workers for farm labor.

The Senior Editor of CNBC.com, John Carney has asserted that there is no crisis related to a shortage of migrant farm workers. Well, to be perfectly blunt, I believe that Mr. Carney is wrong. Sure, some numbers do suggest that American agriculture as a whole is doing fine, but that is oversimplifying the problem. As Craig Regelbrugge has pointed out, mechanized agriculture — which produces crops like corn and soybeans is thriving in America. Other agricultural products – apples, watermelons, peaches, etc. – require extensive labor from workers, most of whom are immigrants. This form of agriculture has suffered greatly under harsh, immoral immigration laws that have rendered farmers unable to find the workers they need.

As a Georgia resident I can tell you first hand the negative effects such hardlined immigration policies have on rural communities whose economies depend on agriculture. My state’s harsh anti-immigrant law, House Bill 87, has been an economic disaster; it has cost Georgia 3,260 jobs and $391 million. The effects are obvious, real, and noticeable on an everyday basis.

The faith community cannot ignore the way our broken immigration system is hurting real people and devastating local communities. Enacting comprehensive reform would improve the lives of immigrants and strengthen the business and agricultural communities struggling because of these misguided state-level policies. The solution is obvious, and yet our political leaders continue to ignore the problem or find the courage required to address it.

Knox Robinson is a semester intern at Sojourners. He’s currently a senior at LaGrange College, where he’s majoring in Sociology and Political Science.

Photo: Migrant farm workers in California, spirit of america / Shutterstock.com

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