Farmers Worry About Immigration Crackdown

Workers handle produce at Leitz Farms in southwest Michigan i i

Leitz Farms employs about 180 seasonal migrant workers every year. Co-owner Fred Leitz worries he could lose half his staff or more under new rules cracking down on false Social Security numbers. hide caption

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Workers handle produce at Leitz Farms in southwest Michigan

Leitz Farms employs about 180 seasonal migrant workers every year. Co-owner Fred Leitz worries he could lose half his staff or more under new rules cracking down on false Social Security numbers.

A court will soon decide whether the Department of Homeland Security can go ahead with a crackdown on illegal workers. DHS wants to hold employers accountable if their workers' Social Security numbers can't be proved valid. Employers fear the new rule could put them out of business and farmers feel especially vulnerable.

The potential for problems can be seen in a visit to Fred Leitz's farm in southwest Michigan, where all but a few of the seasonal employees are Hispanic. Based on industry estimates, Leitz says he can only assume that as many as 70 percent are undocumented.

For years, Leitz has lobbied Congress to legalize the Hispanics who now make up the bulk of the agricultural work force in Michigan and elsewhere.

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