According to recent testimony by agricultural experts, for every one agricultural job that exists, it generates three jobs for U.S. citizens. Instead of creating jobs by vacating immigrant labor, Georgia’s HB 87 actually helped eliminate jobs for U.S. citizens.
The losses will not stop there. Another report indicates that Georgia’s agricultural industry may lose hundreds of millions of dollars more annually for the next 10 years if farmers replace hand-picked crops with crops that can be mechanized. This shift in crop production would place in jeopardy signature crops like Vidalia onions and Georgia peaches. During our current economic downturn, these are real and serious losses of economic activity in our state for a major industry.
Another specific Gingrich proposal is the process of “citizens’ review” committees. However, this proposal is short of what is really needed and will not solve our broken immigration system. This particular proposal has been described by immigration policy experts as a “high risk, low reward” program. A limited pool of immigrants would qualify, clearly undermining its potential impact.
I commend Gingrich for moving toward a workable solution, but would suggest that we must travel further down the road to reach a policy alternative that would actually solve the problem. Dealing with the undocumented population that is here is clearly something that must be accomplished. We also must move toward a solution that is humane and meets our national economic and security needs.
Our congressional leaders must work on a comprehensive immigration solution that is enforceable, restores the rule of law, holds employers accountable, secures our border effectively, provides a path toward earned legalization for those who are here and provides adequate legal mechanisms for people to enter our country legally in the future.
When we acknowledge the complexity of our failed immigration system and deal with its many variables, we then will begin to inch our way toward a workable, robust and enforceable immigration system.
Newt Gingrich has certainly taken steps to acknowledge its complexity.
Jerry Gonzalez is executive director of the Georgia Association of Latino Elected Officials.