Vermont farmers fear new Department of Homeland Security rules will unnecessarily penalize them for hiring foreign workers found to have inauthentic identification papers.
The new rules, disclosed by the Department of Homeland Security earlier this month, give farmers 90 days to clear up paperwork discrepancies with workers carrying Social Security cards or other papers found not to be authentic. After 90 days, the farmer could face fines of up to $10,000 per illegal worker.
But as Vermont's Agriculture Secretary Roger Allbee said Friday, this isn't just a Vermont problem, but a national one. Allbee complained that the United States needs a guest-worker program.
Farmers say they need access to immigrant laborers, typically Mexican, who will do the tasks for a wage Americans won't. They argue the new rules are unfair as a farmer has no way of knowing whether the paperwork a prospective worker provides is legitimate. Afterward, if the worker is found to be illegal, the farmer must fire a newly trained employee.
According to the article, Representative Peter Welch (D-VT) blamed the Bush Administration's "failure of leadership" to resolve the problem between illegal immigration enforcement and the economic needs of American farmers.
Welch is a co-sponsor of the House version of AgJobs, legislation aimed at establishing a guest worker program to help address labor shortages on American farms.