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Farmers have a cow over proposed E-Verify bill

Immigration reform is in the works, and certain businesses don't some of the proposed changes one bit. A new bill forcing farmers to verify their employee's immigration status is one of the bills under fire by the employers it targets.

The bill, which was proposed by a conservative Texas lawmaker, requires farmers to check all of their new employees through the federal citizenship status database run by the Department of Homeland Security known as E-Verify.

The bill also provides a three-year grace period before farmers would have to follow the law, but that addition has done little to change the farmers' minds.

The law is intended to weed out workers who are in the country illegally, which is known to be a huge problem in the agricultural industry. However, farmers say that their harvests depend on these workers because no one else is willing to do the job.

Currently, many farmhand employers ask for workers to provide authorization such as a picture identification card or Social Security card. However, many times those documents can be falsified, the New York Times reported.

Although E-Verify could provide assurance of workers' legal status, farmers argue that the bill has the ability to severely damage their industry, which relies on thousands of immigrant workers who are willing to work for low wages and help harvest the nation's wide variety of crops.

The president of the U.S. Apple Association told the Times that the bill could impact farms to the point of closure because the check would scare employees away from seeking employment.

An 81-year-old apricot farmer who hires 100 people to help pick between 50 and 100 tons of fruit each day during the summer heat agrees. He told the Times that his employees are "hardworking" and "good people," and his farm would suffer immensely if the bill were passed.

According to Democrats, the federal government will lose $22 billion over 10 years from lost tax revenue from illegal immigrant paychecks if the bill is passed. Farmers would lose out of $5 to $9 billion a year, the Times reported.

If you think that your job may be at risk because of laws like this one, remember, it is not too late to apply for a work visa. Employers, too, can get help finding out how to get legal citizenship status for their team of workers.

Source: The New York Times, "Farmers Oppose G.O.P. Bill on Immigration," Jesse McKinley and Julia Preston, July 30, 2011.

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