Immigration reform as presented may cripple Calhoun County

By Published On: April 6, 2012

There are many people in our state clamoring for immigration reform. I would caution everyone to be careful what you wish for.
I agree that immigration reform is needed, but from the federal government. It is their responsibility after all.

Their failure to address the issue however, has forced the hands of several states. I can understand the quick action from border states such as
Arizona seeking relief, but Mississippi’s rush to cast out all illegal immigrants from the Magnolia state seems more political than practical.

An Associated Press news story released this week pointed out the elephant in the room that there are illegals here in Calhoun County.

There are many Hispanics here in the county legally, primarily on worker visas to work in the sweet potato industry, but obviously there are also illegals getting through the holes in the system.

Advocates of immigration reform often argue illegals are taking jobs away from U.S. citizens. I don’t believe that to be the case here in Calhoun County.

I’ve seen farmers in our county beg for locals to come work, but they have few to no takers. It would be cheaper in most instances for the farmers to hire local people than have to go to the expense of all of the requirements within the migratory worker programs, but they don’t have the option.

Speaking of the response to advertisements for local workers, Melissa Edmondson with Topashaw Farms in Vardaman told the Associated Press, “They’ll often come work for a week, and then leave because they don’t understand how difficult the work really is.”

I’ve heard the same thing from dozens of other farmers. When your family’s livelihood hinges on getting a crop out of the field, you have to rely on workers who will stick with it until the job is done.

The bill that passed the Mississippi House and was before a Senate Committee on Tuesday puts a huge burden on local law enforcement (See the cartoon above). It demands they go pick up all known illegals immediately. The county jail would suddenly become overburdened and law enforcement funds severely depleted.

Sheriff Greg Pollan is on record supporting immigration reform, but not this bill. I concur.

There is no question illegals are costing taxpayers when it comes to health care expenses (emergency room visits) and educational funding (additional teachers/aides required to bridge language gap), but illegals are so intertwined with legal migratory worker programs that you can’t address one without the other.

Only the federal government can do that effectively and they have failed us. So it’s understandable that state lawmakers are looking to compensate, but they need to take the time to explore the far reaching impact of such legislation.

Immigration reform as currently presented at the state level may be successful in some areas, but it could be crippling for Calhoun County.

Hopefully a proper solution can be found, but I don’t believe House Bill 488 was it.

You may email Joel McNeece at joelmcneece@gmail.com

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