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Opposition Grows to Mandatory E-Verify Legislation

July 14, 2011

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - As Congress considers legislation that would require all employers to verify their employees' social security numbers, critics of mandatory E-Verify say the legislation is a guaranteed failure when it comes to California's agriculture industry.

A new report from the immigration reform organization America's Voice finds that the legislation being sponsored by a number of California's Republican Congressional representatives is riddled with problems. The report highlights a range of studies, including one from Bloomberg, that have found mandatory E-Verify would cost small businesses $2.6 billion to implement.

America's Voice Executive Director Frank Sharry points to another implication: The loss of immigrant labor would leave food rotting in the fields in California.

"Seventy to 80 percent of the workers in agriculture in California are here without papers. And the three to four jobs that are created for each farmworker - packing, transportation, marketing and sales - would also be lost."

The report also finds mandatory E-Verify would not even work as intended, citing research that shows the current version of the database successfully identifies undocumented workers less than half of the time.

Eric Larson, executive director of the San Diego County Farm Bureau, says there is already a shortage of farmworkers in California. He is convinced that if the legislation is passed, many farms will shut down.

"What we need is a program put in place first, so that we have this steady supply of workers that can withstand the E-Verify scrutiny. If we do the E-Verify first, all we will do is deplete the force of workers."

Larson says the Farm Bureau would welcome E-Verify, but only after the country has a guest worker program in place or recognizes workers who are on the pathway to permanent residency or citizenship.

The America's Voice report is at www.americasvoiceonline.org.

Lori Abbott, Public News Service - CA