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  by  Roy Beck

Our TV/radio ads & grassroots campaign are stirring up some signs of panic among the supporters of illegal foreign workers

NumbersUSA is creating 'crisis of near doomsday proportions,' says a coalition of illegal-alien-hiring businesses

A Big Ag coalition apparently believes that we are threatening to have some success in our campaign against Speaker Boehner and his blocking of E-Verify legislation since it passed the House Judiciary Committee last September.

The Save America's Food and Economy coalition (SAFE) has just issued an urgent national release criticizing NumbersUSA's ad campaign. It refers to SAFE President Craig J. Regelbrugge's speech before growers, manufacturers and agriculture experts at the Natural Products Expo in Anaheim, California.

SAFE announced:

(Regelbrugge) expressed concern that misguided organizations like NumbersUSA, a group fanning the flames of fear and division on the immigration reform debate, will end up causing the destruction of struggling farms and the communities that rely on them.

"NumbersUSA recently announced a major advertising campaign targeting Congressional districts, including House Speaker John Boehners Ohio district, to scare members of Congress into voting for an immediate E-Verify mandate on employers and the economy.

SAFE argues NumbersUSA is sabotaging America's food independence and security by threatening Speaker Boehner into forcing passage of Rep. Lamar Smiths (R-TX) Legal Workforce Act or H.R. 2885.

And who is "fanning flames?" Believe me, if we thought E-Verify would collapse our food industry, we would be working for a very different solution. Here are some things to keep in mind when reading the hyperbole of the SAFE coalition:

  • Despite the tendency in the news media and among too many Americans to equate farmwork and illegal immigration, fewer than 5% of illegal aliens work in agriculture. The purpose of mandatory E-Verify is primarily about opening up non-ag jobs to unemployed Americans who are looking for work in the same construction, manufacturing, hospitality and other service occupations where most illegal aliens work.
  • I believe it is unlikely that farmers will be able to replace most of their illegal workers with Americans, at least not in the near-term. But we can't exempt farmworkers from E-Verify since that would provide a huge loophole for a continuing flow of illegal immigration, and would continue to undermine the wages and working conditions of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who still do farm work.
  • If E-Verify passes, farmers won't have to rely on American workers. If they anticipate a worker shortage, they can apply for legal foreign guestworkers through the federal guest ag-worker H-2A visa. There is no limit to how many they can bring in legally. There would be no reason for any shortage of legal farm workers, but mandatory E-Verify would end decades of lawlessness by the growers. (By the way, NumbersUSA supports now -- as we have for a decade -- the ongoing efforts inside Congress to make the H-2A program easier for law-abiding farmers to us.)

Isn't it outrageous to have a group of businesses proudly admit that they are serial lawbreakers -- and then use their criminality as an excuse for allowing them to continue in their outlaw ways?

Look what the SAFE coalition admitted in their national diatribe against NumbersUSA:

Nearly 70% of farm employees are unauthorized, yet skilled and experienced migrant workers who are responsible for the nations food production.

The current version of E-Verify without a 'workable solution for farms,' says Regelbrugge, 'would effectively kill America's agriculture.'

'This is a crisis of near doomsday proportions,' warned Regelbrugge. 'Congress and the American people won't realize what happened until it is too late.'

Regelbrugge reminded the audience about Georgia, where the state has lost hundreds of millions in crops and economic activity because of a one-sided state law that has E-Verify at the centerpiece.

This is a particularly interesting claim about Georgia, which appears to be greatly exaggerated. A state commission that studied Georgia's farms found indeed that there had been some losses because farmers had not prepared well enough in advance for the fact that bands of roving illegal aliens wouldn't just show up as usual.

But if there has been some ag losses in Georgia, there certainly has been no collapse of the industry. The use of Georgia may suggest the possibility of disruptions in the agricultural industry but nothing like what the Big Ag coalition is projecting for the country.

However, the Georgia study shows that if there are disruptions the fault would primarily lie with the farmers themselves. The state study found a large percentage of farmers didn't even know the H-2A visa existed. This year, the only reason for a scarcity of farm workers in Georgia will be because farmers are too stubborn or too inefficient to figure out how to contract for legal workers in the same way that North Carolina farmers have done for years.

Most farmers in America are NOT outlaws. They do NOT hire illegal foreign workers. They DO obey the law. They ARE patriotic good citizens and neighbors.

It must be so embarrasing to most farmers to fantastic claims like this one made by the SAFE ag lobby:

If (H.R. 2885) passed today without an agricultural solution, over two-thirds of America's skilled farm workforce would disappear almost overnight. The country would find itself relying more on food production from places like China, which has already increased its fruit and vegetable exports to the U.S. by 555% over 10 years, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

'We support the need to reform a troubled immigration system, with effective enforcement included,' said Regelbrugge. 'But, let's be smart about it. These groups are playing with fire and risking the economy. Poll after poll shows that the economy and jobs are the number one priority for voters in fact, only 5% of Americans rank immigration at the top of their list of important issues. So, why is NumbersUSA forcing the issue? And why would Congress let them?'

Just because a person thinks immigration is the SECOND MOST IMPORTANT ISSUE FACING AMERICAN doesn't mean a person thinks it is unimportant. Don't you just love the kind of logic Mr. Regelbrugge uses to dismiss the public's immigration concerns. Also, the last time I looked, the point of mandatory E-Verify is about jobs.

This SAFE public declaration shows you the kind of pressure Members of Congress are under to keep blocking H.R. 2885 (the Legal Workforce Act). It is up to an army of regular citizens to apply an opposite pressure on these Members of Congress to ignore the greedy pleas of these admitted federal lawbreakers.

H.R. 2885 is exceptionally lenient with the Big Growers. It gives them two years longer than most large employers (three years after enactment) to E-Verify all their workers. That should be far more than enough time for any farmer to either figure out how to use the H-2A system or to join a co-op that will do it for them.

Interestingly, though, no House leader has thus far publicly stated that ag concerns are behind their delay on bringing H.R. 2885 to the floor. It could be that the ag arguments are just too embarrassing to acknowledge as being influential.

ROY BECK is Founder & CEO of NumbersUSA

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