Agriculture Lobby Relentless in Its Attack on E-Verify

Published on October 19th, 2011

In recent days, mainstream media newspapers have published a spate of stories about growers and dairy farmers who protest Lamar Smith’s Legal Workforce Act. They offer a variety of familiar but misleading reasons: no Americans will do the jobs or E-Verify is too cumbersome to deal with.

Here’s an excerpt from a Philadelphia Inquirer story about a hearing in Harrisburg which focused on an E-Verify bill promoted by Daryl Metcalfe, a Pennsylvania state representative opposed to illegal immigration:

"At a recent hearing in Harrisburg, [Kay] Hollabaugh testified in opposition. She cited a fellow farmer in Arizona, where E-Verify is mandatory, who stopped checking workers against the database because it took too long when ripe fruit needed to be plucked. The Arizona farmer stopped issuing paychecks and withholding taxes, and began paying cash under the table, Hollabaugh said." [Farmers Say Stricter Immigrant Screening Could Hurt Their Business, by Michael Matza, Philadelphia Inquirer, October 10, 2011]

Beyond the fact that this is poor reporting—using an anonymous secondary source (the Arizona farmer)—Hollabaugh’s statement doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

There are several valid possibilities that might support the farmers’ claims that E-Verify "took too long." The most probable would be that the farmer doesn’t have a computer or if he does that his Internet skills are poor or he’s is in an area of Arizona so remote that he can’t get a quick connection.

If that’s the case, then the growers can tap into the E-Verify Employer Agent network any member of which will handle the process for a small (and probably negotiable) fee.

According to the USCIS website:

"E-Verify employer agents, formerly called designated agents, use E-Verify to confirm the employment eligibility of another company's employees. E-Verify employer agents frequently offer E-Verify along with other services, such as background checks, legal assistance and accounting services. E-Verify employer agents may also handle payroll and other administrative tasks that include managing the Employment Eligibility Verification (Form I-9) process."

Any employer without a computer could simply ask a friend or family member to do an Internet search for an E-Verify Employer Agent of which thousands are listed and proceed from there.

Growers’ explanations for not hiring legal workers are always flimsy. But with a well-developed system of E-Verify professionals who can check the immigration status of new employees quickly and for a modest charge, the farmers have one less excuse —"it takes too much time"— to defend their addiction to cheap labor.

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