Category: A - Newsbreaks
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July 5--  When the Georgia legislature cracked down on illegal immigrants in 2011, it caused a major labor problem for Georgia's produce farmers.

Toombs County organic farmer Jason Berry tried to tell lawmakers back then it would be a disaster, but not enough listened.

"When Georgia passed House Bill 87 was when we started seeing issues with getting enough labor to pick our crops.  We tried to talk with state representatives and senators about the bill, but state government went ahead and passed it.

"The migrant workers were afraid to come to Georgia.  For example, with blueberries, Florida starts out early in the season and the season moves on up through Georgia and North Carolina on up to New Jersey.

"In 2011 I got calls from crew leaders who said they weren't coming to Georgia and were going on up to North Carolina and going through Alabama and Tennessee to get there.  They were afraid to even come through Georgia and these were legal folks.  Now they may have been some undocumented workers in the group, but the way the law read, if there were illegals in the vehicle with you, you could be held accountable.

"So basically we ended up losing about twenty percent of the crop and we had about half of the people we would have liked to have had," Berry said.

The situation has led Berry to be a supporter of the immigration law which has passed the U.S. Senate but has little chance in the House.  He and others met with President Obama in the White House to support the administration's efforts.

"We need to do something to give these people a legal way to come here and work.  They want to work, we need them to work and it's very important we give them a legal channel to do so," he says.