Grower Testifies Before House Subcommittee
Last week, Bert Lemkes, co-owner of Van Wingerden Intl., Mills River, N.C., testified before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Enforcement.
The subcommittee was holding a hearing on the E-Verify program, and identity theft issues. Lemkes’ growing operation is using the federal E-Verify program and has learned first-hand of the challenges it poses for agricultural employers.
Lemkes cautioned Subcommittee members that making E-Verify mandatory without broader reforms could have the opposite of its intended effect, since false documents that feature a legitimate name and Social Security number routinely clear the E-Verify system now. It would also deprive greenhouses, nurseries, and farms of much of their labor force.
Most of Lemkes’ testimony, though, focused on the need for Congress to create a viable and practical visa program for agricultural workers desperately needed by farmers across the country. “This spring”¦had us experiencing terrible problems finding help for our busiest shipping season. When I get the question ‘how does E-Verify work for you?’ my answer is: “Those that are willing to do the work often fail the system, but many of those that pass the system, fail to do the work.”
Lemkes emphasized this very point, telling Congress, “To put this in an agriculture picture — they are the cart and the horse. The cart can’t move without the horse, and they need to be in the right sequence.”