Recruiting Immigrants

A federal program in Georgia is allowing farming companies to recruit immigrant workers to the Peach State. The growers are able to bring in immigrants without running into INS problems.

Immigrants from around the country are coming to Georgia, finding temporary farming jobs thanks to a federal program called H-2A.

Georgia Department of Labor experts say although they mostly look to hire local workers first, farm owners have different staffing needs at different times of the year.

"They need to make sure they actively recruit through us, through newspaper, through radio. Whatever it may be to try to find local workers first. That is a very careful process and local workers would be hired first for those types of jobs," says Susan Dukes, Career Center manager.

Farmers say the immigrant workers will stay in the U.S. for 10 months at a time before they are sent back to their country of origin for two months.

The immigrant workers are sent here to an employment housing where they are paid more than $7.00 an hour and fed several times a day. Company owners say the program is a win-win situation for the company and for the workers.

"We have to apply with the Department of Labor to get them. When we need workers they put out our application all across the state and in several other states, and if they can't find workers and we can't find workers, then we do get authorization to bring the workers in through the H-2A program," says Kent Hamilton, president of Southern Valley Fruits.

Many growers say since immigration laws have tightened they've turned to the H-2A program for legal workers. Farm owners who use the H-2A program say the immigrants send about 50 percent of their weekly salary back to the country they came from.