States, and farmers, await Supreme Court immigration ruling
Farmers all over the country will have their eyes turned to Washington D.C. this week as a controversial Arizona immigration reform law heads to the Supreme Court. Many farmers rely heavily on an immigrant labor force to work the land, harvest the crops, pick the fruit – you name it -- and a recent spate of tough immigration laws scared many immigrants from their homes and jobs.
Arizona’s hardline immigration law, known as SB 1070, inspired many other states to take a crack at cutting down on illegal immigration. The thing is, many of those laws had unintended consequences for farmers like Darvin Eason of Georgia, according to the New York Times’ Julia Preston.
At the peak of the harvest, many of the Mexican workers he had relied on to pick his blackberries were scared away from the state. Ripe berries fell to the ground uncollected, and Mr. Eason lost $20,000 — even though the sections of the law that struck fear in the immigrants had been suspended by federal courts.
Many ag groups opposed the flurry of anti-immigration laws, but state legislatures around the country took a look at the legislation. The Supreme Court’s decision will have far-reaching consequences, as Preston notes.
If the court endorses any part of Arizona’s approach, it would provide a big lift to groups that campaign against illegal immigration, which have clamored for tough action by states, saying the federal government has failed to do its part. It could rekindle political battles in state legislatures, including in Georgia, where support for Arizona-style laws had begun to fade in the wake of unanticipated consequences like those Mr. Eason and other Georgia farmers faced.
The central issue the justices will examine is whether the Arizona law encroaches on federal territory. The Obama administration contends that Arizona essentially adopted its own immigration policy, which it has no power to do.
As part of our Farmer of the Future series, airing next month, we'll take a look at the role large Hispanic/Latino communities are playing on the Heartland.