He said even before the law went into effect, rumors that the state would put up roadblocks to keep undocumented workers out and that the state would deport illegal aliens kept workers from coming in to harvest in the spring of 2011.

The stay made fall of 2011 and the 2012 season a bit better. The 11th Circuit Court delayed action on the constitutionality of the law until after the Supreme Court ruled on the Arizona law. Following that ruling, both sides have claimed the ruling favored their positions, Hall said. So the question remains to be settled.

“If the law is ruled constitutional, it will cause problems for Georgia. We also expect problems if mandatory E-Verify is put into effect in July, 2013.” He urged other states to monitor their own legislative bodies and, “if they consider similar laws, use the Georgia experience as evidence of what can happen.”

He said more than agriculture was affected by the law. “Tourism, restaurants, construction and other industries were also affected,” he said. For now, these undocumented workers are a central part of the economy and are necessary, “to keep the rest of the economy working,” Hall said. “We have to show legislatures how these workers contribute to the overall economy.”

Eddie Aldrete, with IBC Bank, moderated the panel. In his opening remarks, he said the current focus on enforcement ignores the larger underlying issue. “The emotion and focus on enforcement ignores the big part of the iceberg, the effect on our labor force and the underlying economy,” he said.

“We have a changing dynamic,” Aldrete said. Birth rates are declining in the United States and in other countries. “We are also witnessing a migration back to Mexico.

“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction,” Aldrete said. “With these kinds of laws, we create an economy that makes the labor shortage worse.”

Hall said House Bill-87 was presented as a jobs bill but “created no jobs. We have to have a guest worker program to get workers to come in and harvest our crops,” he said.