Tuesday, June 7, 2011

How's that working out for 'ya?


Most Georgia voters didn't see this coming - except for those with the good sense to follow this blog. You may recall back in July last year I posted a timely column on the disastrous effects of successful immigration law enforcement by the Obama administration. Businesses which depended on the kind of labor only available with undocumented workers were suffering as the INS pursued "silent raids", which effectively made it impossible to retain those workers. Gebbers Farms, a huge, 500 acre orchard was losing hundreds of reliable employees this way - and couldn't replace them with Americans because, well, as one legal immigrant put it: "Show me one American --just one--climbing a picker’s ladder.”. In other words, after all the hue and cry that undocumented workers were stealing American jobs, the government did something about it, the jobs opened up, and suddenly there weren't any takers. That was back in July.

Well, wouldn't you know it, Georgia Republicans heard the same hue and cry and May 13th of this year passed HB87, the "Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011" to recover all the jobs illegals were stealing from Georgia citizens. Among other things, the Act requires Georgia businesses to check the immigration status of their employees through E-Verify - a strategy identical to what the INS was using with their effective silent raids. In addition, it "empowers police to investigate the immigration status of certain suspects. And it penalizes people who transport or harbor illegal immigrants or encourage them to come here". Practically overnight, the bill had precisely the effect it was intended to have, and thousands of undocumented workers began to leave the state and move on.

Then, on May 17th, ( 4 days after passage of the bill! ) the AJC ran an article - the mere title of which made me fall off my chair, seized by spasms of hysterical laughter:

"Governor asks state to probe farm labor shortages"

Honestly, I lack the necessary skills as a writer to describe how gigantically funny this is. Governor Nathan Deal signed an Act into law, knowing without any possibility of doubt it would cause labor shortages, now he's shocked!, shocked! that there are labor shortages and "... asked for the investigation [into the shortages] Thursday in a letter to Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black. Deal wants Black’s department to survey farmers about the impact Georgia’s immigration law, House Bill 87, is having on their industry and report findings by June 10..."


"The Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association has estimated the labor shortages afflicting South Georgia counties could put as much as $300 million in crops at risk."

Come on man. Does this guy really expect us to believe he didn't know this would happen? Of course he did. HB87 was nothing more than cynical pandering by Georgia Republicans to get votes. Heck, I remember months before, while the bill was still being debated, agribusiness concerns in particular were warning that it would result in severe labor shortages and the consequent loss of hundreds of thousands in lost revenues. Steve, I knew that - I mean, sitting here in my own comfy little house-e-by with only this dinky computer to work with - I knew that. And of course, so did you if you had bothered to read my post from last year.

Anyway, the results of the survey are in. As reported in the AJC, nearly half of the 134 farms surveyed across 61 counties say they are experiencing labor shortages, and only 24% said they had an adequate number of workers. The survey included space for additional comments. This one was representative:

"The labor pool has dried up because Hispanics are leaving Georgia as fast as they can. They are terrified about what will happen when this law goes into effect. Since we cannot find immigrant labor, we are trying to hire non-immigrant labor. Even with pay rates above $10 an hour, we cannot find people interested in working outdoors, in the heat. They will stay for one or two days and then leave. Our work is labor intensive, so we are losing money every day by not having dependable, hard-working laborers. This is just another blow to our business on top of what we have already lost due to the economy." (my emphasis).

Steve, this is serious. We're in a recession, Georgia is one of the most affected states and this is costing us real money. In 2008, a survey from UGA estimated the total impact of agriculture on Georgia's economy to be 65 billion dollars - and much of that comes from the cultivation of labor intensive commodities like fruit, vegetables and horticultural products. We can't afford to mess around with this industry.

One other comment from the survey struck me as exquisitely ironic:

"Agriculture desperately needs a workable labor solution–perhaps a user-friendly guest worker program."

Steve, up until they passed this bill, they already had one!



  1. Forgive me. I was unaware Georgia had a guest-worker program that was fully-functional without operational issues. I'm sure it had no end of applicants being quickly approved and the next case handled promptly and effectively by industrious government employees. And that HB87 eliminated that program. And that so-called 'illegals' were actively pursuing registration and taking advantage of every opportunity to become 'legal' until HB87 passed...

    Cynicism aside, I generally agree with your point.

    However, let's consider:

    1. We have (overloaded) programs for guest workers. The 'how do I get in' process is BROKEN.

    2. There are 'undocumented' workers being employed in violation of the law. That makes them CRIMINALS. Sorry.

    3. Some industries (e.g. farming) which benefit from 'non-enforcement' of existing laws. (If my car body-and-paint business would be more profitable if we didn't enforce speeding laws, why shouldn't we get rid of them too?)

    4. There are a lot of otherwise employable people unwilling to work at existing pay scales for the work the 'undocumented' are willing to do. Why? Could it be related to the fact there are a lot of people who choose to live off government subsidy instead of actively pursuing employment?

    5. We have (immigration) laws that are not working or (at least) are not being enforced. Why? If they *shouldn't* be enforced, why do we still have them?

    ...etc., etc., etc.

    YES, I agree that the majority of legislative actions in this state (and especially at the federal level) are taken NOT to 'solve problems' but to pander for votes. This is not an ideological issue: politicians of all stripes are guilty. Chris, to point your finger-of-shame at Republicans specifically is beneath you; both parties are to blame, and you know it.

    I summarize (again) my three steps (general) plan to address the 'immigration problem':

    1. Secure the border. For real. Seriously. Even to the point of 'shoot-to-kill', if that is what it takes.

    2. Fix the Immigration process. Top to bottom. That includes creating a quick, verifiable guest-worker process in addition to granting long-term Visa and eventual citizen status.

    3. Put the results for #2 in place, and THEN begin the process of integrating existing 'illegals' into the New System - in other words, THAT is when we can start over.

    Now, I applaud the desire to enforce the laws we have on the books: the Law of the Land is the law of the land. That said, I agree that the attempt to use the existing law within the context of an immigration system that is clearly BROKEN is a waste of time. Further, I think all efforts to 'round them up and ship them back' are futile if the border itself is not secured. I believe we should IGNORE the 'existing illegals that are already here'... For Now. When we have done steps 1 and 2, *THEN* we can address what to do with those already here.

    Honestly, this is NOT as complex a problem as it appears: it's just that the solution will be painful, and we cannot simply 'wish it away'. The political focus is on "what can we do that helps get me re-elected?" - changing that attitude is the key to problem.

    However, I acknowledge the implementation of a viable long-term solution will be extremely painful and some folks will be inconvenienced (to say the least). But any approach that does not address ALL the issues in the appropriate order is doomed to failure.

    - Steve

    P.S. It's all just another example of Unintended Consequences... And these (bureaucrats) are the ones we want to let run details of our day-to-day lives? Give me a break.

  2. Judging from your response, I think we've pretty much exhausted the issue of illegal immigration. In fact, except for a few differences in semantics, I'd say we probably agree on all the major points.

    To be sure, I'm not as sanguine about the prospects of establishing the kind of secure borders you propose. Yet, except for the "shoot to kill" idea, I wouldn't object to the effort.

    In the real world, border guards with "shoot to kill" authority would be being asked to shoot and kill women and children - which brings up a whole new order of disturbing questions. Would we require they only shoot adult men? How could they distinguish between men, women and children, especially at night? And, not the least, what kind of individual do you think, would be able to shoot and kill an unarmed person under those conditions? If you have moral objections to doing this yourself, and I take it for granted you do, would you not then be suggesting we only hire guards low moral character?

    That aside, the real problem with "guest worker" law as it is written today is completely economic in nature. Undocumented imigrants living here, now, offer businesses which employ them a tremendous advantage over temporary workers brought in to this country on an as needed basis. I based this post entirely on recognizing that reality, and from your response it looks like you recognize it as well.

    Steve, knowing you as I do, I'm certain you are if anything less bigoted than I am. Yet I can't help but believe there is a huge component of racial, religious and cultural bigotry involved here. I don't doubt at least 99% of the illegals we're dealing with are brown, Hispanic and Catholic. Would this be viewed as nearly as large a problem if they were white, western European and Protestant?

    Come on man, whether we care to acknowledge it or not, a substantial share of the electorate views this whole problem of illegal immigration as an assault on traditional American values. Frankly, I completely reject that attitude, and we're not going to make any real progress until we get past it.

    One other thing. To my mind, you're making your most important (and true) point when you say:

    "Could it be related to the fact there are a lot of people who choose to live off government subsidy instead of actively pursuing employment?"

    Let's be honest. Just about every one of the illegals residing and working here come from countries which have virtually no entitlement or welfare programs like the kind we have here. You could even say they bring with them an attitude of personal accountability and self reliance which is sorely lacking in today's America.

    Seriously. Think that through. The central objection which libertarians have to big government subsidies is that they encourage more reliance on the state and less reliance on the individual. Yet here we have over 10 million new, potential citizens who daily express this core libertarian principle.

    Wouldn't it at least be worthwhile to consider this an asset rather than a liability? And, having made that connection, what sorts of legislative strategies could we employ to turn this asset into a positive benefit for American society as a whole?

    Once again, in case I haven't been clear enough, despite our differences in the ways we express ourselves, I think we're probably close enough on our basic ideas that we've reached agreement on all the important points.

  3. Yes, we agree on the main points. A couple of responses...

    1. I don't like "shoot to kill" either. But there is a problem with putting moral boundaries on the reaction to an 'invasion force' (that's what it is, sorry). We could go down this road a long ways, but I don't see it as necessary, since both of us are concerned with the operational consequences of saying "Stay Out-We Don't Want You Here." We *do* want them, but borders are borders and there are numerous - and more critical - reasons other than Immigration why a Secure Border is desperately needed.

    2. I do NOT believe racial or religious bigotry is a factor AT ALL. On the other hand, YES, I am a 'Cultural Bigot'. We have a specific set of traditions, laws, and general belief system upon which this county was founded. It is acceptable (and I think should be mandatory) that immigrants accept OUR system of doing things. And #1 on that list is the Rule Of Law. Sure, we have our problems (who doesn't?) but, YES, I think in many ways we *ARE* better than other countries.

    3. The entitlement issue I raised really doesn't belong in this discussion. The shift to an Entitlement Attitude is a Bigger Issue culturally and has far-ranging impacts going WAY beyond its effect upon immigration. Sorry for bringing it up.

    4. Yes, I *do* recognize the (typical) personal attitude by the 'illegals' to be desirable. Highly so. But no matter how wonderful they are, no matter how great the benefit may be, support for the Rule of Law *must* come first... FIX THE PROCESS and there will be no issue with those who are already here.

    Like you said - we're close enough to being on the same page here. Nice Session.

    - Steve

  4. OK - now I think perhaps we've arrived at an issue on which we may sharply disagree - and one which transends the subject of illegal immigration.

    I'm not sure the extent is of what you mean when you say:

    "We have a specific set of traditions, laws, and general belief system upon which this county was founded. It is acceptable (and I think should be mandatory) that immigrants accept OUR system of doing things."

    But, really? Laws I can of course understand. But a "specific set of traditions ... and general belief system(s)"? How specific? And what do you mean by "cultural bigot"?

    Forgive me for saying this, especially to you my friend, but it seems like every time I see these terms used they preface a fairly narrow definition of what qualifies a person to be a true American.

    My own opinion is what makes this country great is that a man's religious beliefs, cultural traditions and even primary language have absolutely no place whatsoever in defining citizenship, so long as he observes the law.

    Man, I have a lot more to say about this but I think we'll both be girding ourselves for a fruitful new debate. Loose the hounds!

  5. You said what I wanted to say, and did it clearly. My point is that in coming to this country to become a citizen, you leave your previous allegiances behind and adopt a new one... and we are all equal under the law. No one is better, worse or receives preference, except in accordance with the consequences of his actions. The condition of one's previous existence is not an advantage or a barrier to one's future.

    By "cultural bigot" I mean that disapprove of the attempt to grant (or claim) special dispensation or preferential treatment because of where one is FROM or what one believes, etc. *Individuals* may CHOOSE to grant such preference to other individuals - within the limits of areas they control - but such cannot (should not) happen as a result of action by government, e.g. using the power of government to dictate personal behavior between individuals.

    Many who come to this county do not have a cultural history based on the foundational principle of Rule Of Law. They need to understand the depth of that principle and accept it: That one rule is one of the Main Things that makes this country special.

    It is not a question of "qualification" as much as it is one of "attitude".

    Sorry I was not more precise. We're still in the same general area.

    - Steve

  6. Sorry, I had already loaded up several muskets, leaned them against the wall next to the gun port and provided the women folk with powder, musket balls and wadding so I could hold off your furious charge. At the end I expected Hand to Hand Combat - with the survival of the Free World hanging in the balance.

    Yet once again you turn out to be rational and reasonable. Where's the fun in that?

  7. Yes, the medications are taking hold nicely. I'm on wet packs, sponge baths and a chemical bouillabaisse every-hour-on-the-hour. But you already suspected that. I know you're just jealous because the voices don't talk to you as much as they talk to me. Curiosity killed the cat, but for awhile there, I was a prime suspect. The guy in the next bed makes synthetic hairballs for ceramic cats.

    The day nurse is a prim-and-proper, crisply starched and cold professional at all times, but the night nurse is kinda cute. Nice figure, too. She has a very friendly smile when she comes at me with the needle...

  8. I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, "Where's the self help section?" She said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose.