Georgia governor suggests ex-convicts replace immigrants as farm workers
On Tuesday, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal released the results of a survey that he had requested from the state agriculture commissioner on farm labor shortages in Georgia. The survey found that there are approximately 11,080 unfilled farm jobs in the state.
In response to the report, Deal suggested that people who are on criminal probation could fill the job openings: “There are 100,000 probationers statewide, 8,000 of which are in the Southwest region of the state and 25 percent of which are unemployed.” According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, although probationers in Georgia are required to find employment if possible, state officials cannot compel them to take one particular job over another.
The director of the American Probation and Parole Association told Bloomberg that the temporary nature of agricultural work makes it unsuitable for people on criminal probation who need to rebuild their lives in a more permanent job. He compared Deal’s suggestion to the “work farms” of the past, when convicts could be sentenced to hard labor in the fields.
As the American Independent reported last week, an earlier survey of farmers from a private association made at least one cause of the labor shortages in Georgia explicitly clear: the recently passed House Bill 87, the immigration enforcement law set to take effect on July 1. Many immigrant workers are apparently leaving the state in anticipation of the law’s provisions, which include requirements that employers verify the legal status of their workers or face penalties.
Yet although the commissioner’s survey was initially justified by concerns over the effects of the new law, neither the governor nor the commissioner mentioned the bill in their public statements after it was released to the public, nor did the survey itself contain any questions mentioning the law.