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Ga. Farm Bureau supports immigration reform, dismisses amnesty

Immigration reform continues to be a big issue in Georgia and the nation.
Immigration reform continues to be a big issue in Georgia and the nation.

On Wednesday, July 9, Central Georgia's NBC affiliate --WMGT-TV-- interviewed Jeffrey Harvey from the Georgia Farm Bureau and had said that Congress must act on immigration reform.

The Georgia Farm Bureau's main office is located here in Macon and Harvey had spoke about immigration at a news conference. Harvey is the Assistant Legislative Director and went on to say there is a need for a 'partnership for the new American economy'.

However, the Georgia Farm Bureau has taken more of conservative stance in regard to immigration reform and has advocated for the need of migrant workers to help harvest crops, but have been resistent to vocally supporting a pathway to citizenship.

In 2011, the Farm Bureau provided a statement about their position on immigration.

Undocumented workers are not three-fifths of a human being, and for some employers who use their status to circumvent labor and employment laws still must be held accountable.

Undocumented workers pay via their wages into Social Security and Medicare and when they buy gas or groceries from Georgia’s businesses or rent or buy different forms of housing, they are contributing to Georgia's economy.

So this myth that undocumented workers have drained Georgia’s economy is simply not true.

There should be a pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers and citizens, but Governor Nathan Deal and the Republicans' legislation approach is based on vindictiveness, contempt and exploitation.

Many Georgia farmers and Georgia businesses who utilize migrant labor for decades have grown to like this arrangement, but at some point there has to be a pathway to citizenship for migrant workers and/or undocumented people living in this country.

When African-Americans were fighting for voting rights in the early-to-mid 20th century, legal obstacles were thrown up in the same fashion that HB-87 or the Voter I.D. laws are put up today.

On a side note, African-Americans and other minorities were in the same position as today's migrant workers several decades ago in the last century. This was called sharecropping. However, the Voting Rights and Civil Rights Acts were passed along with stronger labor laws which changed the labor force.

In the early years of Reconstruction, most blacks in rural areas of the South were left without land and forced to work as laborers on large white-owned farms and plantations in order to earn a living. Many clashed with former slave masters bent on reestablishing a gang-labor system similar to the one that prevailed under slavery. In an effort to regulate the labor force and reassert white supremacy in the postwar South, former Confederate state legislatures soon passed restrictive legislation denying blacks legal equality and political rights, and requiring them to sign yearly labor contracts.

Punitive, unconstitutional legislation such as HB-87 doesn’t save American jobs, but damages Georgia’s economy and hurts the soul of this country.

Harvey told WMGT-TV that farmers around the nation, and in Georgia face a difficult issue."Without an adequate work force agriculture production will decline," says Harvey.

Unfortunately, the Georgia Farm Bureau and congressional Republicans want to have it both ways on immigration.

Harvey cited statistics such as agribusiness contributes $76.9 billion to Georgia's economy, but the industry needs more legal workers.

"We need workers to harvest these crops, and if we don't have a reliable workforce to harvest these crops it's just going to push that production overseas," Harvey says, "And at the end of the day it becomes a national security issue, and when we as a country can't provide the food to feed ourselves, that is a concern...a real concern for the Georgia Farm Bureau."

According to Harvey, he's disappointed Congress has not brought immigration legislation to the floor.

"However, we remain committed to advocating for immigration reform in order to supply Georgia's farmers with a reliable and legal workforce," says Harvey.

President Barack Obama has faced criticism from Republicans over immigration reform, and had recently spoke at a press conference in Texas about how

“This isn’t theater. This is a problem. I’m not interested in photo-ops. I’m interested in solving a problem,” Obama said. “Those who say I should visit the border, when you ask them what should we be doing, they’re giving us solutions that are embodied in legislation that I’ve already sent to Congress.”

Most legislation invovling immigration reform has died in the Republican-dominated House of Reprsentatives.

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