The Contra Costa Times reports the government’s e-Verify program threatens to remove a majority of the employees on California farms and could deteriorate America’s ag industry.

The Department of Homeland Security’s e-Verify program is a voluntary system, but could be expanded when up for reauthorization next year. The program allows employers to electronically check a worker’s employment status against federal immigration databases.

Farmers worry the program could eliminate the agricultural workforce if made mandatory. Some estimate the percentage of undocumented agricultural workers to be about 80 percent.

There are opportunities for immigrants to work legally, but producers say they are unrealistic. Requirements and paperwork required for the H2-A program, an alternative guest worker program, make the program unworkable in the agricultural industry.

A proposed bill ease concerns with the e-Verify program.

The AgJOBS Bill, supported by Rep. Sam Farr and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, would allow workers who are currently undocumented to pay a fine to have the opportunity to become a legal citizen. The bill requires workers to continue with their current job for a period of time and would be required to start to learn English.

Although AgJOBS isn’t under consideration at the moment in Washington, D.C., farmers hope that will change.

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Source: The Contra Costa Times