Farmers: McCrory 'misinformed' on immigration bill veto
Posted August 16, 2013
Benson, N.C. — Area farmers said Friday that Gov. Pat McCrory was wrong to veto legislation that would have eased rules for them and other business owners who hire foreign workers.
Under current law, the immigration status of seasonal workers hired for 90 days or less doesn't have to be checked through the national E-Verify system, but House Bill 786 would have expanded that exemption to anyone hired for up to nine months.
McCrory said Thursday that he vetoed the bill to keep undocumented workers from taking local jobs.
"I want to save North Carolina jobs for citizens of North Carolina," the governor said.
The E-Verify system works well, he said, and the bill opens the door for people in the U.S. illegally to filter into manufacturing jobs in the state.
"This was a bill disguised to help farmers," he said.
"I think he has good intentions. He's just misinformed. I think he just missed this one," said Jeffrey Lee, who grows sweet potatoes, soybeans and tobacco on his Johnston County farm.
Lee hires 48 seasonal workers from Mexico to handle the heavy lifting on his farm, and he said he and other farmers can't find locals to do the work.
"I don't think there's 1 percent of the farms in this state that could operate with local labor. It's just not going to happen," he said.
Like other labor-reliant farmers, he strongly disagrees with McCrory's claim that the legislation is a job-killer, noting that he has to pay $1,500 per worker to get U.S. Department of Labor clearance for his seasonal staff.
"It would save me the time and the paperwork and the hassle of doing all this ... and the money," he said about the proposed E-Verify exemption that McCrory turned aside.
The veto also could affect non-farmers in North Carolina, Lee said.
"If you do away with that labor and we cannot harvest these crops, then you will not have an abundant cheap supply of food," he said.
Lawmakers will go into special session next month to consider a possible override of McCrory's veto of the immigration bill and a second bill calling for welfare applicants to pass a drug test.
The state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services "would not be disappointed" by an override on House Bill 786, spokesman Brian Long said.
"In the absence of congressional immigration reform, House Bill 786 is important for ensuring that farmers can continue to hire sufficient numbers of workers," Long said. "Without an adequate labor supply, farmers run the risk of having crops rot in the fields, which has happened in other states, such as Georgia."