Bert Lemkes, co-owner of Van Wingerden Intl., Mills River, NC is testifying today before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement. The subcommittee is holding a hearing on the E-Verify program and identity theft issues.
Lemkes’ operation, which employs 350 people at peak season, is using the federal E-Verify program and has learned first-hand of the challenges it poses for agricultural employers. Lemkes cautioned Subcommittee members that making E-Verify mandatory without broader reforms could have the opposite of its intended effect, since false documents that feature a legitimate name and Social Security number routinely clear the E-Verify system now. It would also deprive greenhouses, nurseries and farms of much of their labor force.
Most of Lemkes’ testimony, though, focused on the need for Congress to create a viable and practical visa program for agricultural workers desperately needed by farmers across the country. “This spring…had us experiencing terrible problems finding help for our busiest shipping season. When I get the question ‘how does E-Verify work for you?’ my answer is: “Those that are willing to do the work often fail the system, but many of those that pass the system, fail to do the work.”
“This latest in a series of E-Verify hearings signals a renewed push for passage of mandatory E-Verify legislation,” says Craig Regelbrugge, vice president of government relations for the American Nursery & Landscape Association and co-chairman of the Agriculture Coalition for Immigration Reform. “Agriculture has sent a clear message to proponents of E-Verify legislation: E-Verify will decimate American agriculture unless you give us a market based and practical visa program to address the farm labor crisis,” Regelbrugge adds.
Read Lemkes’ full testimony at on anla.org.