E-verify was once a part of U.S. Congressman Goodlatte’s Agriculture Guestworker Act (AG Act), but now e-verify is a standalone piece of legislation. According to Amy Wolfe, president and CEO of AgSafe, this separation could mean trouble for growers.
Wolfe compares e-verify to a digital I-9 form. “It’s (e-verify) the online, instant feedback equivalent to 1-9. We’ve all filled out an I-9 form in our day,” she says. Now that e-verify has been separated from the AG Act, growers could be losing workers without a way to replace them.
The AG Act proposes a new, reformed version of the H-2A program, called H-2C. However, Wolfe says that there are many complications surrounding the AG Act, and it may take longer to pass through the legislature than e-verify will.
E-verify will expose workers who are not in the United States legally. “What we all know to be true in ag is at least half of our workforce is not here legally,” Wolfe says. This is where the worry arises. Many growers are concerned that if a mandatory e-verify policy is passed before a functional guest worker program, then the growers will instantly lose their illegal workers and not have a source to replace that labor. The growers could enter the H-2A program, but it is a long, costly process to even get the workers to the United States. Without the passage of the AG Act, e-verify may take away workers from farms quickly.
While e-verify will ensure that there are no workers in the country illegally, it leaves growers without another option for a labor force. “Obviously everyone in ag wants to ensure that we’re playing by the rules, and we’re torn with the idea that we have people here illegally. But, at the end of the day, we can’t cut our nose to spite our face,” Wolfe concludes.