According to this article:
After enacting House Bill 87, a law designed to drive illegal immigrants out of Georgia, state officials appear shocked to discover that HB 87 is, well, driving a lot of illegal immigrants out of Georgia…
Thanks to the resulting labor shortage, Georgia farmers have been forced to leave millions of dollars’ worth of blueberries, onions, melons and other crops unharvested and rotting in the fields. It has also put state officials into something of a panic at the damage they’ve done to Georgia’s largest industry….
The results of that investigation have now been released. According to survey of 230 Georgia farmers conducted by Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black, farmers expect to need more than 11,000 workers at some point over the rest of the season, a number that probably underestimates the real need, since not every farmer in the state responded to the survey.
To fill this gap in the labor supply, the Governor of Georgia started sending convicts to the farms; the plan is not working out too well though:
Republican Gov. Nathan Deal started the experiment after farmers publicly complained they couldn’t find enough workers to harvest labor-intensive crops such as cucumbers and berries because Latino workers — including many illegal immigrants — refused to show up, even when offered one-time or weekly bonuses. One crew who previously worked for Mendez told him they wouldn’t come to Georgia for fear of risking deportation.
I find compelling certain “common-sense” and basis economic reasoning of the argument that this anti-immigrant legislation, as has passed in Georgia and Alabama, may actually shut down the farms altogether ultimately.
It goes like this. If you’re not going to let illegal immigrants do the jobs they are currently being hired to do, then farmers will have to raise wages to replace them. Since farmers are taking a risk in hiring immigrant workers, you can bet they were getting a significant deal on wage costs relative to “market wages”. I put market wages here in quotations, because it’s quite possible that the wages required to get workers to do the job are so high that it’s no longer profitable for farmers to plant the crops in the first place. The simple labor market supply and demand curves below illustrate exactly what I’m talking about.
Here the leftward shift in the labor supply curve when moving to a market with immigrants to one without reflects the fact that for any given wage, there are less people willing to do the job. If the supply curve shifts far enough to the left, the equilibrium quantity of labor becomes negative, meaning that farmers will hire zero workers. If workers are needed to run a farm, then zero workers is the same as zero crops, and zero farm. Some labor may be replaced with capital, but in other cases the farms might just shut down. . . .
All of this is to say if you’re going to stop illegal immigrants from doing a job you should be prepared for the job, and perhaps even the business itself, to go away. You may think this is worth it, but you should at least be acknowledging the risks and weigh them against what, if anything, you think is being gained.
Basically, it is not that there is a lack of “Americans” willing to do grueling cucumber picking; it is that there are few “Americans” willing to do it at the existing wage-costs. As hinted at above, my belief, based upon anecdotal evidence, is that industrial sized farms and large corporations can pay “illegal immigrants” sufficiently lower wages and see reduced costs to employ “illegals” than than to employ the typical “American.”
Why? Does anyone expect the “illegal immigrant” to report unfair wages or unhealthy working conditions? No; so these workers can be easily exploited and treated unjustly by their employers. As a “subclass,” they operate in an underworld with no protections from the law. The new legislation only exacerbates this problem; it further drives this community underground in other areas.
Nevertheless, regardless of whether the farms shut down, “Americans” should expect to pay more at the cash registers wherever we shop. (And especially in the grocery store because of the labor supply shortage and unharvested crops described above.) In every area of the economy, as the labor supply curve shifts leftward, the prices of everything will increase as costs rise all the way from production to distribution to sales.