For Barbosa, that can hurt business, because guest workers aren't nearly as reliable as customers as those who settle in and develop attachments to a community.
"They'll come in and buy some beans and tortillas and then send $1,000 to Guatemala," she said of the guest workers.
Many farmers have long complained the federal guest-worker program is too rigid and difficult to use.
"We know we've got to deal with the rules, and we do," said Bob Stafford, director of the Vidalia Onion Business Council. "We do the best we can with them."
Now farmers and workers both are turning their attention to the debate over national immigration reform and are hoping for provisions that will help them.
"We need a real good guest-worker program," Stafford said, "something that will work ... for the growers and for the workers and for the community."
Barbosa, whose husband works as a crew leader recruiting and overseeing field workers for farmers, is also watching Washington.
"People have hope," she said. "But there's been a lot of talk about immigration reform before and nothing has happened, so there's still a lot of doubt."