New immigration proposal could affect Louisiana farmers

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FARMERVILLE, LA (KNOE 8 News) - On Thursday, Arkansas senator Tom Cotton advocated for change to the American immigration system.

Courtesy: KNOE 8 News

"It's over a half century old," Cotton said. "It's an obsolete disaster, and it needs to change."

Cotton and President Donald Trump trying to make legal immigration merit-based, a change that could have a major impact on Louisiana farmers like Anthony Yakaboski.

"To have our crop planted, picked, gathered and processed, every bit of that is centered on immigrant labor," Yakaboski said.

Yakaboski's family has been serving up their famous peaches for more than 20 years, and have almost always used immigrant labor.

"Most of the ones we have stay right here," Yakaboski said. "They don't venture off and go to other jobs. We try to keep them busy year-round."

Because of that, they're more than just his employees.

"It gets to the point where you know everything about them, and they're kind of like family in a sense, where they rely on you and you ultimately rely on them," he said.

But, Yakaboski's worried about how long he can rely on them. If the new bill makes it through Congress, it's projected to cut legal immigration by 50 percent, something he says would cripple his crop.

"Inevitably, I think it'd cut our production in half," he said. "I don't know where we'd be able to pull workers from."

That's why he says it doesn't matter who picks the peaches, as long as it gets done.

"It doesn't matter who's working. It's just a matter of finding someone who will work, who will get up off the couch and do that job."