KING: E-Verify not a risk to our agriculture

There is currently much consternation and hand wringing over the fact that the Georgia legislature may actually move to protect jobs by clamping down on illegal hiring with the no-cost federal E-Verify system. But a key component of the story is not widely known.

The argument du jour from the usual suspects opposed to enforcement is that Georgia would somehow lose its agriculture industry if we comply with the federal law making employment of illegal aliens well, you know — illegal.

While the media have faithfully reported on the agriculture angle, the existence of the legal alternative to continuing to hire black market farm laborers who have escaped capture at our borders has so far eluded mention.

It is something called the H2A agricultural worker visa.

This agricultural program establishes lawful means for agricultural employers who anticipate a shortage of domestic workers to bring an unlimited number — no ceiling! — of temporary foreign workers into the United States.

But the grateful, legal, temporary workers looking for a better life must be treated with dignity and respect. Employers must provide free housing that meets lawful safety and health standards and provide workers’ compensation insurance to workers at no cost to the worker.

The wage for H2A workers must be the same as that for U.S. workers. The rate must also be at least as high as the applicable prevailing wage rate the wage.

The employer must provide either three meals a day to each worker or furnish free and convenient cooking and kitchen facilities for workers to prepare their own meals. If meals are provided, then the employer may charge each worker a certain amount per day for the three meals.

These requirements obviously make hiring the more “flexible” and desperate illegal labor considerably more profitable. And there is little fear of federal punishment.

An H2A visa is usually issued for a period of one year and can be extended by two one-year extensions for a maximum of three years. Then the temporary workers must return to their home country — making them poor prospects for creating a resentful “oppressed” and “victimized” political constituency willing to march in American streets demanding legalization.

The concept that illegal workers are integral in or necessary for Georgia’s largest industry is complete fertilizer.

Readers may want to pass the H2A facts on to their state lawmakers and remind them that illegal immigration is a direct result of illegal employment.

And that with E-Verify — and courageous vigilance — we have the tools to stop illegal hiring.

D.A. King is a nationally recognized authority on illegal immigration and president of the Georgia-based Dustin Inman Society, which advocates for enforcement of immigration and employment laws. He has been an authorized E-Verify user since 2005.