Archive for October, 2011

October 30, 2011

10/30 – New America Media – Latino College Enrollment Skyrockets, But Will Upward Mobility Follow? – New America Media

Latino College Enrollment Skyrockets, But Will Upward Mobility Follow? – New America Media.

Latino College Enrollment Skyrockets, But Will Upward Mobility Follow?

Jacob Simas and Vivian Po, Posted: Oct 30, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO — Maricruz Cabrera, a 17-year-old high school senior from Thermal, Calif., a rural community in the east Coachella valley that stretches from Indio to the Salton Sea on the southern edge of Riverside County, knows what it’s like to pick grapes under a hot desert sun. It’s back breaking. It pays little. In a nutshell, it’s hard physical labor for minimal return. Which is why Cabrera, the daughter of migrant workers, has her sights set on the one thing she believes will create job opportunities that her parents never had: a college degree.

Cabrera moved to the United States from Mexico with her parents and older siblings in 2000, and in the ensuing years all of the family members, including Cabrera herself, have had to rely heavily on farm work to make ends meet. Only recently were Cabrera’s parents able to find less physically demanding, yet still low-paying jobs — her mother as a home-care worker and her father as a groundskeeper at a golf resort catering to tourists in plush Palm Springs.

“Getting a [college] education is sort of a necessary thing to do, in order to repay my parents for all they’ve had to [sacrifice],” said Cabrera.

She’s not alone in her thinking. In fact, it is the hope of upward mobility that she embodies — the classic immigrant dream of a better life – as well as the economic recession, which experts say is the reason Latino college enrollment numbers have spiked to unprecedented levels across California and the nation.

According to recent data compiled by the Pew Hispanic Center [URL:, the number of Latinos aged 18-24 attending college in the United States increased by an incredible 24 percent over a one-year period, from 2009 to 2010. That increase represents a spike of nearly 350,000 students and brings the total number of college-aged Latinos enrolled to 1.8 million nationwide, or roughly 15 percent of all young adults enrolled in college. Those figures include students at both two- and four-year colleges.

“People come to the U.S. because they’re hopeful for a brighter future,” said Lisa Garcia Bedolla, a professor at the Graduate School of Education at UC Berkeley and chair of Berkeley’s Center for Latino Policy Research. “And some of that immigrant work ethic and hopefulness carries through and is evident in their kids. I can say that in my own family, and I would imagine in other families also, the immigrant generation has always been motivated because they remember what the conditions were like wherever they came from.”

In California – home to more immigrants than any other state in the nation – the overall numbers hold true but also reveal a huge gap between community colleges and four-year universities.

Within the Cal State University system of 23 college campuses, Latino enrollment grew by 3,418 students between 2009 and 2010, and those gains were most apparent on campuses located in rural counties, such as CSU Bakersfield (11 percent increase), Humboldt (32 percent), Monterey Bay (17 percent), Sonoma (18 percent) and Stanislaus (9 percent).

Even in the UC system, where four of the nine campuses actually downsized their student bodies last year, Latino enrollment increased university-wide by a modest 2,410 students between the 2009 and 2010 academic year, although Latino enrollment at the system’s most prestigious schools – Berkeley and Los Angeles – either decreased or was stagnant.

Without question, however, Latino enrollment numbers in California have increased the most in the community college system, which gained more than 40,000 Latino students between the 2009 and 2010 academic year.

Although that number only represents about a 3.5 percent increase, it’s a huge gain when compared to other ethnic groups. No other single ethnicity saw their numbers at the city college level increase by more than 0.36 percent (African Americans) over the same time period.

So while experts point to second-generation Latinos – the sons and daughters of immigrants – as the students most likely to be driving the enrollment numbers up, there remains the question: Why are they choosing to go to school now?

Certainly, population increases alone cannot account for such a dramatic increase over a one-year period, said Bedolla.

“Some of it can be attributed to shifts in educational attainment (at the high school level) in the Latino community, and some can be attributed to there being fewer opportunities for employment,” said Bedolla. “I would assume that the bad economy has something to do with [the increasing enrollment numbers].”

Professor Hugh Mehan, a sociologist at UC San Diego, agreed.

“People who can’t get a job are enrolling in community college to increase their skills so they’ll be better equipped when the economy improves,” he said.

But what looks like a positive trend on the surface – more Latinos going to college – could have unintended consequences down the line if other issues of equity are not addressed. The spike in Latino enrollees at community colleges, in tandem with budget cuts and higher fees at the state’s public universities, has Mehan concerned that the academic gains being enjoyed now by young Latinos may not automatically translate into upward mobility or a better life than what their parents had.

“A two-year degree is an important step up, but it’s not the same as a four-year degree, which can open more (professional) doors for a student,” said Mehan, who also suggests that failing to create more equity across all levels of higher education could well result in nothing less than the shattering of the American dream for a whole generation of youth born of immigrant families.

“The first-generation of immigrants have that enthusiasm and optimism, that carries into the next generation. But if those hopes and aspirations are not fulfilled, then the idea of working hard to get ahead in school diminishes.”

Mehan believes the disproportionate number of Latinos going to community college is a byproduct of rising costs at four-year public universities.

Miroslava De Leon, 17, a senior at Golden Valley High School in Greenfield, a small agricultural town outside of Bakersfield in the San Joaquin Valley, said increasing tuition fees are the main reason she’ll have to begin her college career at a local community college, despite getting good grades in high school.

“There is a financial challenge with tuition, especially in California with the (fee hikes) at CSU and UC. I have great parents and ever since I was a freshman they started a college savings account for me. But it’s not much, so I plan to stay local at Bakersfield College and then transfer,” she said. “UC Berkeley would be my dream school.”

De Leon sees her own situation mirrored by other second-generation youth in her community.

“I see it everywhere. People are saying, ‘I got in, but now how do I pay for my tuition?’ It’s a recession, and the biggest challenge is how to get through it.”

Yet for students like De Leon and Cabrera, earning a college degree is no longer a surefire ticket to success that it once was for second-generation children of immigrant parents from previous generations, said Mehan.

“The economy has shifted, so the kinds of jobs that enabled people to have upward mobility decades ago are shrinking,” he said. “Since positions are being sent offshore, jobs for people with those entry level skills don’t exist.”

The combination of economic recession and immigration policies that discourage immigrants from building a life in the United States, said Mehan, should at the very least temper any blind enthusiasm people may derive from the promising college enrollment statistics.

“The economic downturn is turning immigrants into victims. They’re being blamed for the economy. Look at Arizona, Georgia and Alabama. States are punishing Latino students for going to school, punishing immigrants for living and getting jobs. Those two factors (the recession and immigration policy) operate against the optimism that’s found in the immigrant communities.”

Despite it all, De Leon remains positive and driven to accomplish what her parents could not.

“My dad left school when he was 13 years old, after his mom passed. And my mom had to drop out of nursing school when she was (a young woman) living in Mexico. They’re my biggest inspiration, and I want to (go to college) to set an example for future generations. I want to be that change.”

October 28, 2011

10/28 – Daily Report – Immigration laws harm students – Daily Report

Immigration laws harm students – Daily Report.

Friday, October 28, 2011
Immigration laws harm students

Alabama law seeking children’s status rejected by 11th Circuit, but danger to school access persists

(File photo)
Daniel Altschuler has written extensively on immigration politics and holds a doctorate in politics from the University of Oxford, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar.
(Zachary D. Porter)
Azadeh Shahshahani is the director for the National Security/Immigrants’ Rights Project with the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia.
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True or false: No child in this country can be denied a public education.The answer is true, thanks to the Supreme Court’s 1982 Plyler v. Doe decision, which held that schools could not exclude children based on their immigration status. This is settled law, but not for Alabama legislators, who passed an anti-immigrant law (HB 56) with a provision requiring elementary and secondary schools to determine students’ and parents’ citizenship status. With a federal district court refusing to enjoin this provision, families with an undocumented family member are already keeping their children, including U.S. citizens, out of school. Though an appellate court this month temporarily blocked the K-12 reporting requirement, the right to primary education access for all in our country remains in jeopardy.This summer, civil and immigrant rights groups, religious institutions, and the Department of Justice challenged HB 56 in federal court. Alabama’s law contains many troubling provisions found in anti-immigrant laws in other states, such as Arizona and Georgia, which were blocked by federal courts. But it goes much further, including the requirement in Section 28 that K-12 school officials track immigration status. The court allowed this section of the law to stand.As with Georgia’s HB 87, proponents of HB 56 claim they are removing the drain on state resources. But, in truth, officials like Gov. Robert Bentley are scapegoating immigrants for political gain at a time of economic insecurity. They have confessed their desire to expel undocumented immigrants from the state. HB 56 sponsor Mickey Hammon asserted, “This [bill] attacks every aspect of an illegal immigrant’s life. … [T]his bill is designed to make it difficult for them to live here so they will deport themselves.” The law is so extreme that Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Council on Civil and Human Rights, concluded that Alabama’s “draconian initiative is so oppressive that Bull Connor himself would be impressed.” Birmingham’s former sheriff, you may recall, once used attack dogs and fire hoses on African-American children.Even those skeptical of immigration’s well-documented economic benefits should be appalled by Alabama officials’ willingness to target children. In addition to violating the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, Section 28 is morally repugnant. It uses state power to keep immigrant children, who bear no responsibility for their status, out of school. Moreover, while so many Alabama public schools are failing, the law unconscionably redirects scarce education resources toward immigration policing. Finally, as the court held in Plyler, “It is difficult to understand precisely what the State hopes to achieve by promoting the creation and perpetuation of a subclass of illiterates within our boundaries, surely adding to the problems and costs of unemployment, welfare, and crime.”Sadly, HB 56 may reflect a larger national trend. In May, the Department of Justice issued a memo re-affirming the illegality of asking students about their immigration status. This followed illegal reporting requirements and efforts in other states to pass education provisions similar to HB 56. Recent reports by the American Civil Liberties Union, for instance, found that roughly 20 percent of New York and New Jersey public school districts requested information from students that would indicate their immigration status. Similar practices abound in Arizona, where fully half of school districts surveyed by the ACLU sought such information. The Department of Justice was right to issue its memo, but, in the wake of HB 56’s passage, it must be even more vigilant about illegal school reporting policies, which may rise as restrictionist officials seek to copy HB 56.It is encouraging that the appellate court temporarily blocked the education provision of HB 56. But beating Section 28 in court, while essential, will not by itself ensure that all American children can go to school without fear. Legislators and education officials around the country must take heed: our classrooms are no place for the refrain, “Papers, please.”

Daniel Altschuler and Azadeh Shahshahani, Special to the Daily Report

October 23, 2011

10/23 – Online Athens – Lawyers say immigration law hurts state’s economy | Athens Banner Herald Mobile

Lawyers say immigration law hurts state’s economy | Athens Banner Herald Mobile.

Sunday, Oct. 23, 2011


State and federal immigration laws are making it hard for international companies to do business in Georgia, a panel of legal experts said Saturday at the University of Georgia.

“We literally have companies saying ‘I don’t want to do business in this
state,’ ” Atlanta immigration lawyer Sharon Cook Poorak said.

A UGA law school symposium Saturday included a discussion on the impact of House Bill 87, the new state immigration law that is among the most strict in the nation.

The law affects not only migrant farm workers in South Georgia, but also millionaire European CEOs who want to do business in the U.S., panelists said.

“Georgia is really shooting themselves in the foot right now, to pass these laws that hurt us economically,” Poorak said.

She noted that the state’s unemployment rate is still above 10 percent since the law took effect in July, so jobs held by illegal immigrants aren’t being filled by Americans.

It’s impossible for unskilled workers like dishwashers to immigrate legally because they can’t get visas, said another immigration lawyer, Teri Simmons.

And visas for skilled workers like scientists are hard to get, she said.

“America has one of the toughest, strictest immigration systems in the entire world,” Simmons said.

In addition to discouraging corporations from coming to Georgia, apartments are sitting vacant and small businesses are closing up shop, immigration lawyer Carolina Antonini said.

Her clients are reluctant to go to the hospital if they’re sick or call the police if they’re victims of crime because they fear being deported, she said.

“We’re seeing people flee the state, whole families flee the state,” Antonini said.

Vidalia onion farmers are suffering from a labor shortage because of the law, Toombs County Solicitor Paul Threlkeld said.

“We’ve built an economy on the backs of these folks, and no one wants to treat them like second-class citizens,” he said.

State Sen. Jack Murphy, R-Cumming, said he understands why people come to the U.S. illegally.

“If I could make $10 an hour rather than $10 a week, believe me, I’d come across the border and do the same thing,” he said.

But since the federal government won’t reform its immigration program to allow more workers into the country legally, the state had to act, Murphy said.

Simply asking for identification, “I don’t think that’s unreasonable,” he said.

Threlkeld said he’s glad a federal judge has halted enforcement of some of the laws provisions, such as one empowering police to check the immigration status of people they pull over or arrest, while he rules on the law’s constitutionality.

Toombs County doesn’t have the resources to enforce the law, he said.

Neither do many cities, which will be required to verify employees’, public works contractors’ and business owners’ immigration status, said Rusi Patel, counsel for the Georgia Municipal Association.

The law may be thrown out because it conflicts with federal law, said Neil Kinkopf, a Georgia State University constitutional law professor and advisor to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

State and local police can only enforce federal law if the attorney general certifies them to do so, but HB 87 allows them to enforce immigration law without any training or oversight from the federal government, he said.

October 21, 2011

10/21 – AJC – PolitiFact Georgia | Kent: Immigration board can prosecute with Attorney General’s help

PolitiFact Georgia | Kent: Immigration board can prosecute with Attorney General’s help.

The Truth-O-Meter Says:

The newly created state Immigration Enforcement Review Board “can actually prosecute, and get them [violators] into jail, if we bring in the attorney general.”

Phil Kent on Tuesday, October 4th, 2011 in a speech before the North Fulton and Friends Tea Party

Critics of conservative activist Phil Kent have accused him of being a “nativist.” Now that Gov. Nathan Deal has appointed Kent to a new board to crack down on illegal immigration, critics say he’s distorting the truth.

They point to a speech Kent made before the North Fulton and Friends Tea Party on Oct. 4 where he explained the authority of the Immigration Enforcement Review Board. The state General Assembly created it when lawmakers passed House Bill 87, legislation that aims to get tough on illegal immigration.

Kent’s appointment to the board created controversy. The Anti-Defamation League asked Deal to reconsider Kent’s appointment, saying he has a history of making “deeply disturbing” comments about immigrants. Kent said his critics are left-wing extremists pushing their own agenda.

Kent told the tea party group that all the review board does is take complaints about possible violations of state laws on immigration. The board can subpoena witnesses, hold hearings and review or investigate possible violators.

“And yes we can actually prosecute, and get them into jail, if we bring in the attorney general,” Kent said.  “That’s what the open borders, anti-enforcement people don’t like.”

Immigrant rights activist Erik Voss, who videotaped the speech, cried foul. The review board has no authority to bring in the attorney general, much less prosecute or jail violators, he told PolitiFact Georgia.

We thought Kent’s statement was worth a closer look. Can the immigration board call in the attorney general’s office and prosecute?

We looked into the law. The Immigration Enforcement Review Board was created by Section 20 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011, also known as House Bill 87.

The seven-member review board fields complaints that Georgia governments or agencies have violated any of three state laws. One bans them from establishing policies that give illegal immigrants safe harbor. A second requires them to check the legal status of applicants for public benefits such as food stamps. The third mandates that their contractors and subcontractors file affidavits saying they use a federal database that checks whether employees are in the U.S. legally.

Some of the violations the board has the authority to investigate can be considered criminal offenses.

Agency workers who purposefully violate the law requiring them to check the legal status of those seeking public benefits commit a misdemeanor, and the attorney general has the authority to investigate. Those who knowingly file false affidavits about their use of the federal database violate felony fraud laws.

Local governments that give safe harbor or sanctuary to illegal immigrants risk losing state funding. The board can issue sanctions such as fines as high as $5,000 if a local government doesn’t fix its problems by deadline.

The section of HB 87 that established the immigration board makes no mention of bringing in or collaborating with the attorney general’s office, except to say that the law does not prohibit the state’s top lawyer from “seeking any other remedy available by law.”

We asked the state attorney general’s office for its understanding of the law. A spokeswoman said that the immigration board has civil enforcement authority, while the attorney general has the power to prosecute violators criminally. The immigration board can make recommendations to the attorney general’s office, which will decide whether criminal prosecution is appropriate.

The Association County Commissioners of Georgia and the Georgia Municipal Association, interest groups that represent local and county governments, have the same understanding of the immigration board’s powers.

Kent told us that’s how he understands the law, too. If activists think he’s saying that the board has the power to criminally prosecute violators on its own, they’re twisting his words, said Kent, who is national spokesman for Americans for Immigration Control.

“The panel could most certainly, if it felt warranted, ‘bring in the attorney general’ and recommend his office open an investigation with an eye toward prosecution,” Kent said in an email.

Anyone has the power to tell the attorney general of a possible violation of the law, he told us in a telephone interview. “The board can’t do it alone, obviously,” Kent said.

We agree, but that’s not what Kent originally said.

Kent said that the board “can actually prosecute” violators, and “get them into jail,” if it enlists the help of the attorney general’s office.

Actually, the board cannot prosecute anyone or get them into jail.

The board can bring a potential violation to the attorney general’s attention. So can any citizen. That doesn’t mean his office will investigate, much less prosecute.

Kent may have meant to convey that the Immigration Enforcement Review Board can only recommend that the attorney general open an investigation, but he gave the impression it has far more power than that. He therefore earns a False.

October 18, 2011

10/17 – GPB – The Nation: The High Cost Of Anti-Immigrant Laws : NPR

The Nation: The High Cost Of Anti-Immigrant Laws : NPR.

Mexican migrant workers harvest organic spinach at Grant Family Farms on Oct. 11, 2011 in Wellington, Colorado. Many farmers nationwide say they have found it nearly impossible to hire American citizens for labor-intensive seasonal farm work.

Enlarge John Moore/Getty ImagesMexican migrant workers harvest organic spinach at Grant Family Farms on Oct. 11, 2011 in Wellington, Colorado. Many farmers nationwide say they have found it nearly impossible to hire American citizens for labor-intensive seasonal farm work.

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October 17, 2011

Sean Sellers, a former Kellogg Food & Society Fellow, and Greg Asbed, co-founder of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, have harvested watermelons in Florida, Georgia, and Missouri.

This past summer, the Econo Lodge off Interstate 75 in Tifton, Georgia, where we and other watermelon harvesters from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) have stayed on and off since 1997, was eerily quiet. Gone were the sweat-soaked shoes piled outside motel rooms, and gone were the workers hanging out during their evening downtime, chatting casually or talking to their families on pay-as-you-go cellphones. In their place, a phone card salesman at the hotel’s front desk told anyone who would listen that his sales had dropped by at least 50 percent this year.

It was mid-June, and we were in town for the watermelon harvest, but we might as well have walked into a ghost town, thanks to Georgia’s recently signed Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act, otherwise known as House Bill 87. And thanks to HB 87, a copycat law of Arizona’s infamous SB 1070, millions of pounds of watermelons were left to rot in the fields this summer—along with peaches, blackberries and cucumbers—as many of the most dependable and experienced farmworkers steered clear of Georgia and headed north for friendlier states, prompting an epic farm labor shortage in Georgia and desperate howls from its planters.

A similar story is unfolding in neighboring Alabama, where a federal judge recently upheld most provisions of an even more draconian bill, championed by Governor Robert Bentley as “the strongest immigration law in the country.” The ruling spurred frantic midnight evacuations, as immigrants fled rural towns across the state, leaving a trail of abandoned homes and businesses. Alabama tomato growers, among others, have decried the law’s swift and deleterious impact on the farm labor market.

The Alabama law makes it a crime for immigrants to not carry proper documents and forces public schools to determine students’ legal status. It also broadens the power of local police to investigate people’s immigration status during routine stops. In Georgia similar provisions were designed to target people suspected of a crime, including simple traffic violations, and who cannot produce proper identification.

Under both states’ laws, starting next year, employers will be required to use the federal E-Verify system—an online tool provided by the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration—to determine their employees’ legal status. In Georgia any worker who uses false documents to get a job could face up to fifteen years in prison and $250,000 in fines. Businesses that don’t comply risk losing their license.

But states considering similar legislation should look at what happened this past summer in Georgia as a cautionary tale. Even before it took effect, in July, Georgia’s harsh new law prompted workers to avoid the state just as its summer crops were coming ripe. Bryan Tolar, president of the Georgia Agribusiness Council, described it as “the equivalent of a giant scarecrow in the middle of a cornfield.” This continued even as its most controversial provisions—including a section allowing police to investigate the immigration status of people who have not been arrested—were put on hold by a federal judge while a lawsuit challenging the bill’s constitutionality made its way through court. Replacement workers proved scarce, and those locals who showed up for duty lacked the hard-earned skills for the job. The result: an estimated $300 million in lost crops, with potential losses of
$1 billion for the season for the state’s agricultural sector.

How did Georgia come to suffer such a painful, self-inflicted wound? The proximate cause is the intoxicating power of spreading anti-immigrant sentiment, fanned by incendiary Tea Party–style politics, which have found fertile ground throughout much of the South. HB 87 played an important role in Georgia’s gubernatorial election and was strongly supported by the Republican candidate, Nathan Deal; as Georgia’s new governor, he proudly signed HB 87 into law. Many Georgia farmers supported the law as well. Sixth-generation blackberry farmer Gary Paulk was chair of Deal’s gubernatorial campaign in Irwin County, next door to Tifton. He told Time magazine in June that he stood to lose $250,000 for the summer because of the labor shortage, adding, with no apparent self-awareness, that he finds the law “appalling, because they didn’t think through the implications, at the farm level.”

But like most things in the South, the roots of this particular problem run deep, into a long regional history of undervaluing agricultural labor. Georgia’s leaders (and much of its agricultural industry) were confident that replacement workers could be hired without a hiccup in the harvest. This particular confederacy of dunces believed their own rhetoric and are now paying the price. And from the look of things, it really hurts when you shoot yourself in the foot.

Continue reading at The Nation.

October 4, 2011

10/4 – AJC – Report: Farm labor shortages damage Georgia’s economy |

Report: Farm labor shortages damage Georgia’s economy  |

Georgia Politics 10:53 a.m. Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Georgia’s economy is projected to shrink by $391 million and lose 3,260 jobs as a result of farm labor shortages this year, according to a report released Tuesday by the state’s agricultural industry.

Gary Paulk of Paulk Farm in Irwin County said in June he had to abandon five acres of blackberries because he couldn't get enough workers to pick the fruit.

Vino Wong, Gary Paulk of Paulk Farm in Irwin County said in June he had to abandon five acres of blackberries because he couldn’t get enough workers to pick the fruit.

The study also says many fruit and vegetable growers are preparing to harvest fewer acres or mechanically harvest more than they have in the past because of the labor gap.

The report does not cite the reasons for the shortage in laborers in Georgia’s $68.8 billion agricultural industry, the state’s largest. But many farmers complained this year that Georgia’s new immigration enforcement law — House Bill 87 — has scared away the migrant Hispanic workers they depend on, putting their crops at risk.

The University of Georgia’s Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development completed the study this month for the Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association and other state agricultural groups.

Researchers studied data from seven fruit and vegetable crops representing nearly half of the acreage available for harvest last spring. They tied an estimated $140 million in crop losses to a shortage of 5,244 farm laborers this year.

The association released some of the report’s findings Tuesday morning, just hours before it was scheduled to present the information at this year’s United Fresh Produce Association’s Public Policy Conference in Washington.

Also, Georgia’s agriculture commissioner and a South Georgia blueberry farmer were scheduled to testify Tuesday at a 10 a.m. congressional hearing in Washington on farm labor shortages, state immigration laws and guest-worker programs. The Democratic-led Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security has billed the hearing as a discussion of “America’s Agriculture Labor Crisis: Enacting a Practical Solution.”

Many farmers are critical of state laws such as HB 87 that will require them to use the federal E-Verify program. The program helps employers ensure their newly hired employees can legally work in the United States. Legislation is pending in Congress to mandate the use of E-Verify nationwide. Proponents say such laws will prevent illegal immigrants from taking jobs away from U.S. citizens and burdening taxpayer-funded resources, including schools, hospitals and jails.

Meanwhile, farmers are complaining that the federal government’s guest-worker programs are cumbersome, costly and mired in red tape.

“Georgia is the poster child for what can happen when mandatory E-Verify and enforcement legislation is passed without an adequate guest-worker program,” Charles Hall, executive director of the Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association, said in a prepared statement.

Hall said the full report from UGA’s Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development will be released later this week. He released some of the findings Tuesday morning, including a breakdown of this year’s $74.9 million in crop losses:

  • Blueberries, $29 million
  • Vidalia onions, $16.3 million
  • Bell peppers, $15.1 million
  • Cucumbers, $5.9 million
  • Blackberries, $4 million
  • Watermelons, $2.5 million
  • Squash, $1.9 million

The report does not explain what could have contributed to farm labor shortages in Georgia. But during his testimony on Capitol Hill Tuesday, Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black pointed to “unusually high heat and lack of rain, which caused an unexpected rush in harvests” in Georgia. Black also summarized the findings from a separate, state-run survey of farmers that shows they had 11,080 jobs open this summer, which is about 14 percent of the full-time positions that are filled annually.

Immigration watchdogs say they are sensitive to the farmers’ concerns. But they wonder whether farmers could attract more U.S. workers by boosting their pay and recruiting practices.

“I would hope the farm industry focuses on using legal H-2A visas for guest workers and working with the feds to streamline and reform that federal guest-worker program,” said Phil Kent, who serves on Georgia’s Immigration Enforcement Review Board and is the national spokesman for Americans for Immigration Control.

Roy Beck, the executive director of NumbersUSA, a nonprofit that supports lower immigration levels, has suggested in the past that farmers might become more innovative if they did not depend on the labor of illegal immigrants. They might even resort to using more mechanization in harvesting, he said.

But, the Center for American Progress — a liberal policy group in Washington that opposes Georgia’s immigration law — is preparing to release a study Tuesday that takes a critical look at HB 87. The report says the state’s farming industry would lose nearly $800 million annually if it were to replace all its handpicked crops with mechanically harvested crops to avoid problems associated with finding laborers.

“The only real solution to these problems is a comprehensive federal strategy,” the report says. “These state-based efforts are merely costly, counterproductive skirmishes that distract and prevent progress on reforming our immigration system.”

October 4, 2011

10/4 – TimesFreePress – New Georgia immigration law produces more fear than effect |

New Georgia immigration law produces more fear than effect |

published Tuesday, October 4th, 2011
Spanish language Mass at the St. Joseph Catholic Church in Dalton, Ga., is attended by an overflow crowd.
Spanish language Mass at the St. Joseph Catholic Church in Dalton, Ga., is attended by an overflow crowd.

Photo by John Rawlston.
Will Georgia’s new law drive away immigrants?
  • yes
  • no

In the United States, 40 million people are foreign born. Out of those, 72 percent are legal immigrants and 28 percent unauthorized.

About 4.5 million U.S.-born children were born to at least one unauthorized parent.

Inflows from unauthorized immigrants from Mexico have decreased from 500,000 a year during the first half of the decade to 150,000 per year from 2007 through 2009.

In Georgia, about 325,000 unauthorized immigrants are in the labor force, 7 percent of the total share — making it one of the states with the largest number and share of unauthorized immigrants in the labor force.

In Whitfield County, the Hispanic population increased from 18,419 in 2000 to 32,471 in 2010, a 76.29 percent change.

Source: Pew Hispanic Center

Moving Out

The number of illegal immigrants in Georgia declined from 475,000 in 2007 to 425,000 in 2010, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. Unauthorized residents only represent 4.4 percent of the total population in Georgia, but the increase from 1990 to 2010 was twelvefold. Twenty years ago, there were only 35,000 illegal immigrants in the Peach State.


A federal judge allowed most of Alabama’s immigration law to go into effect, now considered the strictest in the country.

Among other things, school officials are required to check the immigration status of students. The law now allows police officers to check the legal status of those detained for other reasons and to hold suspected illegal immigrants without bond.

Parts of the law still blocked include making it a crime for an illegal immigrant to solicit work, to transport or harbor an illegal immigrant, and barring drivers from stopping along a road to hire temporary workers.

Similar laws have been passed in Arizona, Utah, Indiana and Georgia, but parts of those laws have been blocked by other federal judges.

Source: The Associated Press


Jan. 1, 2012: People who apply for public benefits, such as housing assistance, food stamps and business licenses, must provide a “secure and verifiable” document to show proof of legal residence.

Private employers with 500 or more employees must register with and use the federal work authorization program known as E-verify.

July 1, 2012: Private employers with 100 or more employees but fewer than 500 employees also must use E-Verify.

July 1, 2013: Private employers with more than 10 employees but fewer than 100 employees also must use E-verify.

Under the law, a seven-member Immigration Enforcement Review Board was created to investigate complaints from registered voters that city, county and state officials are not enforcing immigration-related laws in Georgia.

Public employers and local governments must submit a compliance report every year to the state auditor. Subject to available funding, the state auditor is required to do a number of audits.

Source: Georgia General Assembly

DALTON, Ga. — When Georgia’s Republican Gov. Nathan Deal signed one of the nation’s toughest immigration laws in May, many Hispanics in the area panicked.

People in the Hispanic community started to stay at home; they no longer risked being caught driving without a license. Taxi drivers picked up customers after Sunday church services. Some Hispanics packed their bags and moved to Texas, Oklahoma or Tennessee.

“People were afraid of coming to church. We saw a noticeable decline in church attendance in June and July,” said the Rev. Paul Williams of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.

On July 1, House Bill 87, a new immigration law that legislators promised would stem the rising tide of illegal immigrants in Georgia, went into effect. About 40 percent of the immigrant community in the Whitfield County area is unauthorized, according to local estimates. There are about 32,000 Hispanics in the county.

Most people in the Hispanic community in the Dalton-Whitfield County area know someone who has left the state, is planning to leave or was deported.

But others waited. A federal judge enjoined two provisions of the law: one would allow police officers to check the immigration status of those detained for other reasons and the other would punish people who, while committing another offense, knowingly transport illegal immigrants — provisions that concerned unauthorized immigrants the most.

Fear in the Hispanic community abated over the summer. School enrollment did not plummet, as elected officials and community leaders had expected as a result of the law.

“It probably caused unnecessary panic in the Hispanic community because it’s not doing anything much different than what we’ve done in the past,” Whitfield County Commission Chairman Mike Babb said.

Dianne Putnam, a native of Dalton who supports the law, said she hasn’t seen any changes as a result of the law. She said she’s not against anyone coming in legally and becoming part of the community, but the laws need to be obeyed.

Illegal immigrants don’t qualify for most federal public services, such as food stamps, but their U.S.-born children do, which needs to change, said Putnam, who is chairwoman of the Whitfield County Republican Party. The Republican Party hasn’t taken a stance on the issue.

“As long as we keep making it so attractive, we are contributing to the problem,” she said. “I don’t want any child to go hungry, but if you are in a decent church, your church family is going to rally around you and meet that need.”

Three months after the law went into effect, the mood at St. Joseph’s is different. A recent service overflowed with more than 1,000 people. Dozens of Hispanics trickled in, dipped their index fingers in holy water and made the sign of the cross, then tried to find somewhere to sit or stand.

“The Hispanic community is larger than people think and much more strongly rooted than people think,” said Williams of St. Joseph’s.


Dalton Mayor David Pennington said the immigration law has not had a dramatic effect yet.

The economy, with huge downturns in the city’s floorcovering, carpet and construction industries, is a bigger factor in Hispanics leaving, government officials said.

Since 2006, nearly one out of five jobs has been lost in metro Dalton. Georgia lost 29,500 jobs from September 2010 to August 2011, the highest number in the nation.

And the unemployment rate remains in the double digits, at 10.7 percent in the northwest region of Georgia, which includes Whitfield County.

Pennington said he knows people have left in the last three years, when the national economy took a nosedive, because there are empty houses, “for rent” signs outside apartment buildings and, at one point, trash pickup declined.

Mexico native Alfredo Nuñez moved to Dalton in 1999 from California because relatives told him there was plenty of work.

Back then, manufacturing jobs were being added at a rate of about 1,000 every year, according to Times Free Press news archives. The influx of Hispanic workers was a boon to local industry in a county where there were more than 62,000 jobs for just 54,000 resident workers and an unemployment rate of less than 2.5 percent.

But that changed.

In 2009, Nuñez, an unauthorized immigrant, was forced to close his Mexican restaurant in part because he had to prove he was in the country legally to renew the business license. He also saw a decrease in customers.

“Everyone was leaving,” he said.

His family didn’t wait to see the result of Georgia’s new law. In January, months before the law was even signed, the family packed their belongings and moved to Cleveland, Tenn., where he said the laws aren’t as harsh and the economy is better.

“Dalton had become very dangerous, and I feared for my family,” Nuñez said.

Road checks in Whitfield County, and especially in Dalton, where officers ask for a driver’s license have led to a lot of fear within the community, he said.

“There were a lot of roadblocks at all times everywhere in the city,” Nuñez said.

Illegal immigrants can’t get a driver’s license in Georgia, which is a finger-printable offense. Once they are booked in the jail and the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office determines they are in the country illegally, the person gets an immigration hold to get deported.

The loss of jobs in the carpet industry combined with tougher immigration enforcement led Maria Jimenez and her family to sell everything they could and move to Minnesota, where she has relatives.

“There’s no work and the police are getting very tough with people [in Dalton],” said Jimenez, who is a legal permanent resident but has relatives who are not documented.

Jimenez’s husband lost his job at a carpet factory in June and hasn’t been able to find employment, she said as she stood in the parking lot of a closed business on East Morris Street in Dalton, while selling a bed, a dresser, jeans, jackets and shoes.

“My husband made $14 an hour. If he goes to any job right now, they want to pay him $7.25,” she said as she held her Chihuahua “Tita” in her arms. “What are we going to do with that wage?”

Others, even if they are not legally in the country, have decided to stay.

Jorge Munguia has lived in Dalton since 1999 and hopes to legalize his status soon. He said he knows of a lot of people who have left, but he is willing to wait.

“My job and my family are keeping me here,” he said as he left St. Joseph’s church.

Contact staff writer Perla Trevizo at or 423-757-6578. Follow her on Twitter at

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