Beki Grinter

Newsflash: It takes Time and Money to be a Legal Immigrant

In immigration on June 1, 2011 at 12:41 pm

Georgia has approved a new immigration law. It gives the State increased powers to check people’s legal status. It also requires all employers to check the legal status of new employees. This includes the agricultural business who had sought an exemption from this requirement.

Shortly before the law goes into effect, the local news ran a piece about its affects on business, focusing mostly how it would lead to higher prices for food and even an inability to harvest this year’s crop. The local news stopped short of explaining why in their TV broadcast, but that didn’t stop some others suggesting that food prices will rise because not all agricultural businesses can bear the costs of legal immigration, and so they rely on illegal immigrants who make up a substantial number of farm workers (while others suggest that the new law is likely to and even beginning to scare away legal workers also).

Well, duh!

Of course doing things the right way is going to cost us more, and those costs will be borne by both the businesses and the migrants who have to petition and pay various processing fees and potentially hire staff to work immigration issues. Of course those will be passed on to us in the form of higher prices for goods. They haven’t even begun to address the question of time. I’ll bet that the seasonal worker program visa processing takes a substantial amount of time. I checked the Texas Service Center’s processing times (Texas handles applications for Georgia) for H2-A visa which seem to be the visas that legal temporary migrants hold, and they are processing applications dated Dec 2007. That means that if you filed your application in Dec 2007 they are just now processing it. (I admit this is actually worse than I imagined, I really hope there is some other way that temporary workers can come to the U.S. other than applying and waiting 3.5 years).

Governor Deal has said that he’s going to encourage more Americans to take up these jobs. I wish him good luck with that since this article suggests that we don’t actually want to do these kinds of jobs… He’s also said that he is looking into the concerns of the agricultural business. But even if he could make an exemption, given the part of the law about increased powers to stop and interrogate any foreigner, we’ll probably still have foreigners who feel unwelcome in Georgia.

If I am hopeful about anything it is that this law will continue to expose how expensive and time-consuming it is to be a legal immigrant. If we, the citizens of the U.S., learn more about the difficulties of doing the right thing, forced to pay attention with our wallets or shortages, I hope we’ll ask for something that’s better (cheaper and quicker).

  1. Hmmm … as an unemployed person with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science, plus many years of experience, I wouldn’t apply for farm work. It has nothing to do with my opinion of farm work. One reason is that it has been many years since I’ve done anything remotely close to work in the outdoors under a hot sun and possibly high humidity. Given a recent experience fainting during a heatwave in Paris, I would be cautious about doing such work without first consulting my doctor, at least.

    However, a more pertinent reason I wouldn’t apply for farm work is the “opportunity cost” of doing such work. I get asked this type of question a lot — why don’t I teach high school math, or do something “simple” like tech support. It’s because there’s no guarantee that I’d be able to hold onto these jobs either, especially in California where teachers are being let go left and right, and a good deal of tech support work is being outsourced or offshored. Trying to get a (network) software engineering job has proved to be very difficult in the times I’ve been umemployed. The range of questions I could be asked is virtually unbounded. I’ve been asked things like what commands are used to print TCP packets with a tool called tcpdump that’s used to debug network traffic, for example. This is the sort of thing that you would not be asked to give from memory on a job, because you would be able (and allowed) to reference the tcpdump man page or web site to get that information. There’s even been times that I’ve been asked if I use Apple products (, despite the fact that Apple’s job application says it is not necessary to own Apple products to apply. (I’m being a bit pedantic here, but you get the point. Fortunately, I try out Apple products, and did write up a little something about the iPad2 and MacBook Air in my journal, so I had something to say when I was asked that question. What would I have said if I had not tried out any Apple products?) I spend a lot of time reading literature about new developments in IPv6, doing programming exercises of the type that I’ve heard are asked at interviews, reviewing the literature of companies I apply to, and going over notes of projects I worked on in the past. There’s no time to do manual labor, especially of the type that would likely tire me out and make it difficult to spend time making myself (more) competitive for work that I’m much more qualified to do.

    So you see the dilemma that people such as myself face. If we were to try to get manual labor jobs, we might get some of them. However, that would mean those people would not be working in the computer industry. Similar complaints have been raised about the lack of qualified tech workers with the legal right to work in the US, so companies have to recruit people from other countries to do that work, and get them the legal right to do that work. But if we don’t pursue the manual labor jobs (or other jobs outside of the tech industry), people complain that those jobs are going unfilled, and argue that they need to bring in people from other countries to do that work. Also, there is the practical reality of changing careers. With the economy in as bad a shape as it is in currently, there’s little guarantee that you won’t be let go. During the time you spent in that job, you’ll be at risk of falling behind the people who pursued the computer industry jobs (regardless of where they come from).

    • Thank you for your long and thoughtful reply. I appreciate and sympathize with the opportunity cost argument. I feel it as a teacher, that it’s important and difficult to remain current. And then as you say there is considering all employment within the scope of a career. I think that we’ll see these reasons going forward if Governor Deal tries to convince people to take up field labor.

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