Farmers Fear Impact of Illegal Immigrant Crackdown

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UNDATED (AP) - They speak of fruit rotting in fields, cows going unmilked and suffering in barns, farmhouses being shuttered.

Growers are painting a bleak picture of their industry under new federal immigration policies.

The Bush administration has announced that employers who knowingly keep undocumented workers will be held liable under a new enforcement push. Think tanks that oppose illegal immigration praised the move. They hope it'll turn off the job magnet that's drawn new immigrants.

Buy many growers say their businesses would be hardest hit.

Particularly vulnerable would be fruit operations now hiring thousands of seasonal workers for the peak harvest months of July through September. That because the measure is to take effect in mid-September.

J. Allen Carnes is president of Winter Garden Produce in Uvalde, Texas. He says his company faces "firing employees, whether the documents are wrong or right, with no one to fill those positions."

Carnes said he's already suffered worker shortages in the past few years because of tightened border security.

Texas Farm Bureau legislative director Steve Pringle says the Bush administration's move forces employers into an impossible position. "Either you obey the law and you watch your crop rot in the fields -- or you attempt to try to get the crop out and run the risk of being hit by the federal government."