Mississippi Is Burning Georgia's Peaches Because Alabama Is No Longer a Sweet Home: A Legislative Analysis of Southern Discomfort regarding Illegal Immigration

By Hishaw, Jillian S. | South Dakota Law Review, Spring 2013 | Go to article overview

Mississippi Is Burning Georgia's Peaches Because Alabama Is No Longer a Sweet Home: A Legislative Analysis of Southern Discomfort regarding Illegal Immigration


Hishaw, Jillian S., South Dakota Law Review


I. INTRODUCTION II. WE'VE BEEN HERE BEFORE III. NORTH AMERICAN FREE TRADE AGREEMENT IV. THE CHINA EFFECT V. SWEET HOME ALABAMA VI. I'VE GOT GEORGIA ON MY MIND VII. MISSISSIPPI BURNING VII. POSITIVE IMPLICATIONS OF STATE IMMIGRATION REFORM IX. GUEST WORKER PROGRAM     A. H-2A GUEST WORKER PROGRAM     B. HELPING AGRICULTURE RECEIVE VERIFIABLE EMPLOYEES SECURELY        AND TEMPORARILY ACT     C. AMERICAN SPECIALTY AGRICULTURE ACT     D. LEGAL AGRICULTURAL WORKFORCE ACT     E. AGRICULTURAL LABOR MARKET REFORM ACT     F. BETTER AGRICULTURAL RESOURCES NOW X. CONCLUSION 

I. INTRODUCTION

Does this sound familiar? This year 500,000 undocumented residents from Mexico were deported from the United States. (1) For every 1,200 illegal residents deported, 1,478 dependents are left behind. (2) Public assistance is the main source of income, costing the U.S. Federal government an average of $147,000 annually and $90,000 in deportation costs. (3) Ironically, the events described above took place between 1929-1939. (4) During the Great Depression, states began passing laws restricting migrant employment, which is currently being replicated in the South. (5) Reentry was allowed for 80% of the deported due to the large number of dependents left behind who were U.S. citizens. (6) In 1942, three years after a decade long deportation phase, the Bracero Program was established, allowing 4.5 million Mexicans to work as agricultural workers on a temporary work visa. (7) Prior to entering the United States, workers were fingerprinted and fumigated with DDT. (8) Wages, meals, and housing expenses were deducted from workers' wages, resulting in frequent wage disputes among the workers and farmers. (9) Sadly, this same type of scenario exists today. The U.S. agricultural industry employs less than two percent of the U.S. labor force. (10) Of an estimated 3 million employed in the U.S. agriculture industry, one-third are farm workers. (11) Most hired farm workers are hired directly from the grower or through a thirdparty contractor. (12) Half of the hired workers lack legal citizenship or work permits. (13)

For most undocumented residents, "do or die" seems to be the mentality when entering into America, justifying the illegal ends to the means. As a result, agricultural producers are more than willing to exploit migrant workers illegal predicament. Feeding on America's addiction to cheap labor, the agricultural industry has become dependent on millions of illegal workers, as the demand for U.S. commodities increases. Onerous and outdated, the existing guest-worker program is going into its third decade of failure. After tireless federal debates and pleas for a federal resolution, many Southern states have adopted vigilante-type regulations to cut off employment and use of public benefits by undocumented workers. The southern discomfort in not recognizing immigrant rights is long and deeply rooted in the past and present legislation. Due to the overwhelming number of illegal immigrants and federal costs associated with deportation, and the allocation of public benefits, the laws written were out of necessity but the enforcement tactics are too extreme. Many producers have criticized the Southern states' approach in creating a labor shortage that seems to be irreplaceable, despite high unemployment rates.

This article will initially explore the historical relevance of America's use of migrant workers, which in retrospect mirrors today's present issues. The proceeding sections will focus on the effects that the North American Free Trade Agreement had on Mexico's agricultural industry, initiating the increase in illegal crossings of the U.S.-Mexico border. Due to America's dependency on cheap labor, agricultural production has expanded greatly, which has extended to fulfilling China's increasing demand for U.S. agriculture commodities. Subsequently, the latter sections of the article will focus on the detailed nuances of state legislation in the South and the states' push to move illegal residents out. …

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