Does Immigration Contribute to Economic Growth?

In a country that is still feeling the adverse effects of the biggest economic crisis since The Great Depression, many Americans are looking for solid ground on which to get back up. Many endeavors have been initiated to remedy the woes that have been hampering the US economy in recent years. Employment is one of the best solutions right now, according to business leaders in the food services and agriculture industry of the southeast United States.

However, they believe that laws aimed to track and deport undocumented immigrants will greatly affect their businesses in a very negative way. In the first immigration summit held in Atlanta, Georgia on June 12th, more than 200 business leaders agreed on this issue. The summit, titled “Forging a New Consensus on Immigrants and America,” were attended by nearly 200 business owners, farmers, members of the clergy, politicians, and police officers and most of them are in agreement that illegal immigrants help boost their economy and taking them out of the picture will spell bad tidings for the agriculture industry in the Southeastern United States.

These people come from Alabama, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia. All these states rely heavily on agriculture, a very large industry that is always in need of a “large, adequate, and legal workforce” as Larry Wooten puts it. Wooten is the president of the North Carolina Farm Bureau.

The increasing numbers of illegal and undocumented immigrants in the southeast United States are growing. However, they provide an abundant supply of manpower and if they are removed, the business communities in the area will suffer. Wooten says that agriculture is a $70-billion business sector and it employs around one million workers. Around 75 percent are undocumented immigrants.

However, those who oppose their stand say that many business owners and farmers prefer to hire illegal immigrants because they are cheaper. They argued that if business owners offered work with higher wages, they will find themselves attracting and employing Americans instead of immigrants.

On the contrary, Tim Rabon, an HR manager working for a farm based in South Carolina, says that his business relies heavily on illegal immigrants not because they are cheap but simply because nobody else would do it. The same can be said with other businesses in the region.

Wooten also expressed the same thought. He argued that there are some jobs many Americans are not willing to do and agricultural jobs are among them. Many agricultural businesses and farming companies survive because of the immigrants who work for them.

However, laws that are currently being passed are tending to scare immigrants away. Wooten said that agricultural business owners now are having problems meeting their staffing needs because they are not getting enough responses to job postings.

The solution, these business leaders say, is to fix the immigration laws and speed up the legalization process for undocumented immigrants who have met a strict set of criteria.

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