published Monday, May 23rd, 2011

Immigration crackdown worries Vidalia onion country

LYONS, Ga. — Signs point to an exodus in Vidalia onion country.

Fliers on a Mexican storefront advertise free transportation for workers willing to pick jalapenos and banana peppers in Florida and blueberries in the Carolinas. Buying an outbound bus ticket now requires reservations.

Illegal immigrants and their families who harvest Southeast Georgia’s trademarked sweet onions are considering leaving rather than risk deportation in the wake of a law signed by Gov. Nathan Deal targeting illegal workers.

With the ink barely dry on Georgia’s law, among the toughest in the country, the divisions between suburban voters and those in the countryside are once again laid bare when it comes to immigration, even among people who line up on many other issues.

Farmer R.T. Stanley Jr. of Stanley Farms grows roughly 1,200 acres of onions. Some of his workers arrive with temporary agriculture visas, while others are hired locally. While those workers must present paperwork showing they are here legally, Stanley acknowledged some of it could be fake.

He scoffs at the idea of U.S. citizens doing the work.

“I hire locals usually the first of the season,” he said. “They come out and act like they really want to work. You know how long they stay? Two hours. They say this work’s too hard.”

The new law penalizes people who harbor or transport illegal immigrants in some situations and allows law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of suspects who can’t show an approved form of identification. Using false documents to get a job will be a felony once the law goes into effect in July.

Private employers with more than 10 workers must eventually use a federal database called E-Verify to check the immigration status of new hires. That doesn’t sit well with farmers or many of their illegal laborers.

Alfredo Perez said he arrived illegally from Mexico three years ago. He travels between Florida, Michigan and Georgia picking crops.

“I think this law is difficult because they don’t want to let us work here. We’re not delinquents,” he said. “We usually come here during onion season, but because of the law, we’re going to have to think about whether or not we’ll come back.”

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dave said...

Oh yeah...when the farms start having to pay minimum wage and abide by workers com. rules you will hear everyone complain as food prices go through the roof. I hope all those good ol' boys that have been complaining about all them "mexicans" will rise to the occasion get off the couch, drop the "bud" and go and pick Onions in the hot sun. The truth is they were not taking any jobs from someone that wanted them because NO ONE really wants to do this kind of hard labor. When the "mexicans" are gone WHO will do your dirty work for you?

May 23, 2011 at 11:55 a.m.
sage1 said...

You're right Dave. What I just don't understand is why the Illegal Mexican Americans even want to pick produce 'n fruit in the hot sun anyway. All they have to do is sign up on Welfare, Medicaid and food stamps with a fake ID and they can just sit on the couch, drink "bud" and act like REAL Americans.

May 23, 2011 at 12:16 p.m.
gatoralan said...

they need to load all of them up and ship them back to mexico or where ever they came from,or send them to Iraq an let they fight for the country that they want to stay in,an the farmer who starts to gouge the prices put him in a fed prison or pay a decent wage to get the help with his farm,I bet he lives in a $100000 house,an the reason he hires these people is to make more money for him self

May 23, 2011 at 12:39 p.m.
nucanuck said...

The Mexicans are mostly descendents of the tribes of the American continent. They can't be "illegal" in their own land just because someone drew a border. It is we white boys who raped pillaged and stole this land we no call ours.

Maybe we are just experiencing long term justice in the form of a peaceful invasion by people taking back that which was theirs.

May 23, 2011 at 2:52 p.m.
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