Stricter Worker Sanctions Coming
Grower pressures are mounting as the government cracks down on businesses employing illegal immigrants.
June 14, 2011
I wrote a column titled "The Entitled Generation" in this very space last October, when I criticized my own generation for lacking the motivation to work hard and expecting the good life to simply be handed to them. A colleague challenged my comments at the time, arguing the Millennials are doing as much good as previous generations. The colleague even used me as an example in her argument, contending there are many "success stories" of 20-something-year-olds doing something worthwhile with their lives.
While I agree there are success stories to tell about people my age, I hold firm to the notion that my generation believes it's entitled to the good life. Just look at your state's unemployment rate in recent years. Some of you live in areas that continue to endure unemployment rates of 10-plus percent, yet there are growers who can't find U.S.-born workers to do the heavy lifting in their greenhouses.
Surely somebody born here is willing to get off the couch and earn a living. Unfortunately, today's kids graduate from college with an education their parents paid for, and they sit around waiting for the job that's supposedly their right because a college or university gave them a degree.
The sad truth in many cases is there are no jobs available, so the kids who truly deserve opportunities struggle to find them. But for every hard-working kid there's one of the entitled kind. And it's the entitled mentality that contributes to the demise of our country - one that has a high unemployment rate and industries like ours that frequently experience labor shortages. A contradiction like this shouldn't be possible.
Let's Get Real Immigration Reform Already
The fact remains, though: Native-born Americans won't do dirty jobs. As one reader wrote recently on GreenhouseGrower.com: "In more than 30 years, not one has ever applied for a job on my farm. I provide health insurance, a great working environment, pay overtime and follow all labor laws. Even with the current unemployment rates, there are no native-born American citizens asking for jobs here."
With that widespread sentiment in mind, it was alarming to a number of growers when the Supreme Court upheld an Arizona law imposing sanctions against businesses that hire illegal immigrants. The court also upheld the state's law requiring employers to use E-Verify, the federal electronic employment eligibility verification system.
I certainly won't condone knowingly hiring illegal workers, but I do understand the pressures growers face and why some turn a blind eye to a worker's status. Still, in light of recent developments, growers are going to have to be more accountable for who they employ.
At the same time, the U.S. government is largely responsible for the growing illegal immigration problem. If our borders were under control all these years, growers wouldn't be faced with worker status questions and an E-Verify system wouldn't be necessary.
Instead, politicians continue to sweep illegal immigration under the rug. In 2008, the Obama administration developed Secure Communities, a program that identifies immigrants in U.S. jails who are deportable under immigration law. But the program is a soft approach to a solution, and it's resulted in the deportation of non-criminals.
We can't keep having this same conversation about immigration reform every year. The next president, be it Barack Obama or somebody else, must prioritize immigration reform and tackle it with the same enthusiasm with which Obama approached health care. Real reform is long overdue.