A simple question: who will pick the fruit?
What would happen if the illegal immigrants didn’t show up?
Look around and get a few hints. See Georgia, for instance, where with great fanfare the Legislature passed an immigration enforcement law that did Arizona one better. Among many provisions, such as authorizing local police to investigate and jail illegal immigrants, it makes it a crime to use fake identification to get a job, with penalties of up to 15 years in prison and $250,000 fines.
Even before the law takes effect, there are effects. In the fields especially, where Georgia farmers are grappling with a sudden and severe shortage of harvest labor. Berries, peaches and other perishables are ripe, and it appears a good share of them will be left to rot. “The labor shortage is potentially putting hundreds of millions of dollars in crops at risk,” said the Atlanta Journal Constitution, quoting state agriculture officials. Gov. Nathan Deal ordered a survey. It found 11,000 harvest workers were needed now, about 14 percent of the total workforce. This is a problem. Agriculture is Georgia’s largest industry. Its farmers would hire 81,000 workers annually and the fruits of their labor support many more jobs than that. “After enacting House Bill 87, a law designed to drive illegal immigrants out of Georgia, state officials appear shocked to discover that HB 87 is, well, driving a lot of illegal immigrants out of Georgia,” wrote Journal Constitution columnist Jay Bookman. “It might be funny if it wasn’t so sad.”
The governor suggests farmers hire out-of-work criminal probationers, as there are several thousand sitting around. Advocates for the probationers (there are always advocates) say you can’t make them take those lousy jobs. Crops will be lost.
This should give us some idea of what happens when we pursue an enforcement-only approach to immigration, without regard to the consequences. If you kick out the immigrants and leave it at that, as many want us to do, you will find out why those people were here in the first place. They came to work, inhaled by the economic vacuum to do jobs the rest of us don’t need or want. A lot of those involve harvesting the food we eat.