Atlanta (WAOK)-Georgia’s new law cracking down on illegal immigration takes effect on July 1, but it’s effect is already being felt by state farmers. 

Area farmers had already complained of a shortage in the labor force to pick fruits and vegetables, but now that shortage is being realized as a recent survey has revealed that the farming industry has close to 12,000 positions to fill. Farmers charge that the new immigration enforcement law is to blame causing several thousand migrant workers to leave Georgia.

What is left in their wake? Unpicked fruits and vegetables that could cost some farmers thousands of dollars in lost crop costs.

Governor Nathan Deal has proposed a partial solution to the shortage in manpower: hiring people on criminal probation. Gov. Deal said in a statement Tuesday that he had asked the state’s agriculture and corrections commissioners to connect unemployed probationers with farm jobs.

According to the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, last month growers reported they were getting only 30% to 50% of the workers they needed. Deal said about 25% of the 8,000 probationers in southwest Georgia are unemployed. Charles Hall, executive director of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association, said he has been in contact with Labor Commissioner Mark Butler and Agricultural Commissioner Gary Black. Hall said it’s possible state officials could hold job fairs to steer some of Georgia’s unemployed workers to these farm jobs, which pay $12.50 an hour on average.

This week, several farms are scheduled to begin pilot programs to test out Deal’s proposal of hiring people who are on probation. But some growers say they’re concerned that workers who are on probation won’t be reliable or could put their farms at risk. Some farmers have said explicitly that they don’t want people who have been incarcerated working on their farms or being near their children.

The immigration enforcement law, HB87, allows police to ask about immigration status when questioning suspects in certain criminal investigations and asserts that workers convicted of using fake identification to get jobs could be sentenced to 15 years in prison and fined $250,000. Georgia’s agricultural industry vigorously opposed HB 87 in the Legislature, arguing it could scare away migrant workers and damage the state’s economy.

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Comments (8)
  1. Angela says:

    Slavery is over, you take the help that is offered to you or get of your lazy behind and pick your own fruit. The problem these people have is not the workers past but they don’t want to pay 12.50 per hour for help. Greedy that is what they are.

  2. naseer says:

    SLAVEY is over and white people think black people going steal we want to work white poeple get rid or that mindset please

  3. The Black Falcon says:

    Why would any self-respecting criminal work for a living? It is much easier for them to rob, murder, burglarize… You get the point. Don’t believe me, read the headlines of today’s paper, it doesn’t matter whch one. You will find more than enough evidence to prove my point.

  4. Red, White, Blue says:

    Well i am sure this is going to work out just peachy. Get rid of hard working immigrants and replace them with ex-cons. Go Gov. Deal, your genius is overwhelming!

  5. Leonard W Giddens Jr says:

    There is that word again. This has nothing to do with slavary. Prisoners have been working for many years. It is called paying your debt to society. The only reason working on a farm gets a bad name is from people that has never seen or worked on a farm. That’s the same way all the other garbage gets spread around. I worked in the fields as a youngster, and would do it again if the price is right. What deal need to do is start workfare, it worked in Wis, it can work in Ga. It is time people stop sitting on their soap box, saying what kind of job they want work on. There isn’t anything more degrading than a heathy person steeling tax payer money through welfare. By the way, prisoners like getting away from the camps now and then. They don’t need a bunch of people that don’t have a clue speaking for them. None of you talking are not concerned one ioda about the wellfare of these prisoners. In prison, more whites worked than the bros.

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