Linda Chavez

But the company still couldn't attract enough employees, so it also sent buses to pick up American workers from nearby towns and set up dormitories for those who wanted to stay on site. The company nonetheless could only hire a fraction of the workers it needed, and new workers were far from ideal.

The company says that the workforce has turned over three times since the raid. Worse, production has plummeted. The immigrant workers produced an average of 80 pallets of poultry a day per six-person assembly line; the new workers produced only 45 pallets with 15 persons on the line.

The company is still short-handed by 300 people, so it is recruiting Laotian Hmong immigrants from Minnesota and Wisconsin and busing in felons on parole. In any case, with more expensive, less productive workers, the company will have to pass on its costs to consumers -- or go out of business.

Magnify this problem by the thousands and you can see the impact on the U.S. economy.

Immigration restrictionists may think it is fine and dandy to keep Aaron Thorsted's wife and children out of the country because Johana's parents broke the law. And they say they're willing to pay more for food so long as it deprives illegal aliens of jobs. But are they willing to pay companies' actual costs, which in the Georgia case more than quadrupled? And would they rather these jobs simply disappear altogether, striking devastating blows to many local economies?

I doubt most Americans think this is a good bargain. But Congress has yet to wake up to the realities.

Linda Chavez

Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .

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