ALBANY, GA (WALB) - South Georgia farmers and construction companies are worried about a proposed state law targeting illegal immigration.
They say it could drive legal migrant workers away from Georgia and could cause major economic problems for businesses that rely on seasonal labor.
Laney Wooten seldom hires seasonal labor, but he worries that if Senate Bill 40 becomes law, immigrant farm laborers, both illegal and legal, would avoid Georgia totally..
"I feel like it would be devastating to the farm industry, because it's going to make the legal immigrants that are working, scared to come into Georgia. It's going to be unfriendly to them," Wooten said.
Senate Bill 40 would require businesses to make sure all new hires are authorized to work in the United States, by requiring checks on the federal database E-verify.. Businesses would be fined for hiring illegal immigrants, and could even lose their business license.
LRA Constructors Co-owner Ben Barrow already uses E-verify, but says private business should not be saddled with this responsibility.
"It's a long line of governmental regulations that interfere with private business. Business that's trying to make a living," Barrow said.
The Georgia Farm Bureau, the largest lobbying group for the state's number one industry, told Georgia legislators that tough new legislation aimed at the illegal immigration problem could damage the struggling state economy.
"It shouldn't be put on the back of the farmer or the businessman to patrol, whether they are legal or they are not. That's a federal issue," Wooten said.
And business owners worry that a badly written bill could cause an increase in construction and food costs.
"Every time you add another layer of requirements or bureaucracy, or whatever you want to call it on a business, it causes their expenses to go up. And their end product to the consumer also goes up," Barrow said.
State Senator Jack Murphy, who proposed the bill, said that businesses are going to have to figure out a way to make sure all their employees are legal. The Georgia Farm Bureau said legislators need to make sure there is a temporary work program so seasonal farm laborers can come work at jobs Georgia agriculture depends on.
The Georgia Farm Bureau represents 400,000 families working in the nearly $69 Billion state agriculture industry.
Their officials say illegal immigration is a federal issue, not a state or local issue.
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