Stricter Worker Sanctions Coming

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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.

Kevin Yanik is the former managing editor of Greenhouse Grower.
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    3 comments on “Stricter Worker Sanctions Coming

    1. Anonymous

      Kevin,
      I totally agree with your sentiments. We have far too many “entitlement mentalities” in our country today. On a positive note, that keeps hard working people like you and I employed and paying the taxes. It’s sad to think that the people in prisons enjoy a higher quality of life than the senior citizens in nursing homes.
      Sounds to me like your colleague may be a tad on the altruistic side of life… Takes all kinds to make a village.
      Keep up the good work!
      JD

    2. Anonymous

      Kevin, I agree with you and living in Alabama is a real problem.
      We need the immigrant workers but Our State does not ” get it ” yet .
      It is going to be awful when we run all of them away.
      Our kids don’t like hard work. The heat index here today is 109 and
      how many are going to leave the A/C and go outside !!!!!
      It is a problem that has to have an answer. Thank you .

    3. Anonymous

      I grow orchids in greenhouses and do not employ immigrant growers, but I get more than frustrated about the extreme (racist?) positions in states like Arizona, Alabama … I can envision (what a nightmare) the day when all our fruit, vegetables, salads will be imported from Central and South America because the extreme right entangled themselves into their own false claims that immigrants are taking our jobs. So what will happen when we do not produce any fruits or vegetables anymore? Will we have more jobs in agriculture? Hell no, much less! Will our suppliers (from electricity, to fuel to fertilizers…) and our service providers (insurance, payroll services, …)generate jobs when there aren’t any US farmers left to sell to? How can we believe this will add jobs? And how about the safety of our food and vegetables when we can barely check a fraction of what we import?And how many more illegal drugs will be sneaked in our country among the piles of produce we’ll have to import?

      I wish we could tally how much our agriculture & floriculture injects into our economy: potting media, fuel, chemicals, utilities, services. Then we’ll have a chance to tell our fellow Americans how much of our economy these extremists want to throw away.

      For my part I have decided not to do business with any company in Arizona or Alabama and never set foot in these states until they stop killing OUR ECONOMY.