The state Senate passed a resolution Thursday urging Congress to expand a guest worker program that gives visas to foreign laborers.
Last year, lawmakers passed an immigration crackdown that virtually outlaws illegal workers in the state. Soon after, farmers reported fewer migrant workers showing up, leaving crops to rot in the fields. Economists have released various figures quantifying the extent of the crop losses, from $10 million to $300 million.
State officials say the solution is reforming the federal guest worker program so that more farmers can use it. Smaller growers say it's too costly and cumbersome to use. That left them until last year, depending on migrant workers, many of whom were here illegally.
Sen. Curt Thompson, a Tucker Democrat, said the resolution calls on Congress to give Georgia with a waiver to create its own guest worker program.
“The states would better able to adapt to the labor needs in their individual markets and could act faster, quicker and more efficiently given the failure of the current guest worker program at the federal level,” he said after the vote.
The federal government, however, has complete jurisdiction over immigration. A federal judge struck down two provisions in Georgia’s immigration law, saying they were unconstitutional.