Local & Regional News
4:22 pm
Tue June 3, 2014

Struggling To Find Workers, Poultry Industry Calls For Immigration Reform

Chickens gather around a feeder in a Tyson Foods poultry house in Washington County, Ark.
Chickens gather around a feeder in a Tyson Foods poultry house in Washington County, Ark.

The head of the Poultry Federation is calling for comprehensive immigration reform, saying that his industry is currently struggling to find workers.

Marvin Childers said that without reform, the price of food is sure to skyrocket.

“If we don't do something, we're going to drive the price of food completely out of reason for Arkansans and Americans,” said Childers. “We need employees. We need to find a way to make certain that the people that are here that we get them on some path to citizenship.”

He said it's been harder to find workers since the implementation of the federal government's E-Verify system, a program designed to ensure businesses are hiring legal immigrants.

Poultry Federation building in Little Rock
Poultry Federation building in Little Rock

"If they know they can't pass E-Verify, then they do not apply for a job with the poultry companies because every poultry company in Arkansas uses E-Verify," says Childers. 

Childers said he believes the system has failed for many reasons, including that businesses are not being given legal protection if they use E-Verify to vet employees and undocumented workers are discovered.

"If they are fraudulent documents, I'm not sure why the employer is held responsible for someone else's fraud. That's a change that needs to be made. There needs to be some kind of protection for the employers," said Childers.

He also criticized the program's accuracy and questioned its ability to actually catch fraudulent documents.

The Poultry Federation is a tri-state organization that includes Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri.