The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Georgia restaurants are reporting labor shortages following the passage of the state’s tough new immigration enforcement law, a new survey by the Georgia Restaurant Association shows.
Nearly half of the 523 restaurateurs across the state who voluntarily participated in the electronic survey this month are having trouble finding workers, a summary of the survey results shows. That summary, however, doesn’t say how many pinned the labor shortages on Georgia’s new anti-illegal immigration law, also called House Bill 87.
Of the respondents, more than three-quarters are located in the metro Atlanta area. Almost a third of those who took part in the survey gave additional feedback, and 91 percent of them said they were opposed to Georgia’s “immigration reform.”
Supporters of Georgia’s new law say illegal immigrants are burdening the state’s taxpayer-funded resources, including schools, courts, hospitals and jails. A recent estimate by the Pew Hispanic Center puts the number of illegal immigrants in Georgia at 425,000, the seventh-highest among the states.
But Georgia’s $14.1 billion restaurant industry has been particularly critical of HB 87. After the Legislature passed the law in April, the Georgia Restaurant Association raised concerns that it would create additional costs for small businesses and possibly trigger boycotts targeting the state. The association took the position that it supports comprehensive immigration reform, but only at the federal level.
Karen Bremer, the association’s executive director, said she plans to send the results of the survey to state lawmakers in the coming weeks.
“We could have saved a lot of time and a lot of money and dealt with this issue a lot more effectively if business and government had worked together as a coalition and petitioned our federal government to change things and to correct failed policy,” she said.
The restaurant industry is not alone. Georgia farmers also have complained of severe labor shortages following the passage of HB 87. They say the new law is scaring away the migrant Hispanic workers they depend on to pick their fruits and vegetables, potentially putting hundreds of millions of dollars in crops at risk. A state survey of farmers released last month showed they had 11,080 jobs open.
Among other things, HB 87 penalizes people who use fake identification to get jobs in Georgia and requires many employers to use a federal work authorization program called E-Verify. That program helps employers ensure their new hires are eligible to work in the United States.
Last month, a federal judge temporarily put other parts of the law on hold after civil and immigrant rights groups challenged their constitutionality. One of the halted provisions would punish people who harbor illegal immigrants. The other would empower police to investigate the immigration status of certain suspects.