The Alabama Anti-Immigrant Law is having more an impact than its supporter’s rhetoric suggests.
According to the Times-Daily,
Representatives of the Alabama Department of Agriculture, Alabama Farmer’s Federation and other groups that work with growers said some farmers have told them they’ve already lost half their workforce. The state doesn’t have official figures yet, however.
Everyone knew this was going to happen; it had already happened in Georgia. What Beason, Hammon, and Hubbard don’t want to admit is their overly broad and aggresive law is impacting an overly broad category of people.
“We want secure borders and we work to comply with the federal rules,” Cook said. “But this new immigration law is robbing us of the skilled labor we need in the hardest economic times most growers have ever faced.”
One problem in filling horticulture jobs is that they require a high degree of skill that many people don’t have, he said.
“The legal people are apparently leaving along with the illegal people because they all want to stay together,” he said.
Why would a “legal” Hispanic-looking person want to stay in Alabama and continually be suspected of being “illegal?”
Proponents of the new law, including the primary sponsor, Rep. Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, said the law should open up jobs for Alabamians as illegal immigrants leave. People who work with the growers disagree.
“When they say the unemployment is so high so the workers have got to be out there, they need to come walk a mile in our shoes,” Cook said.
He also debunks the claim that immigrant workers drive down wages or take jobs that U.S. workers could have.
“We’ve tried to do the right thing,” he said. “We hire people that have been through federal screening and they know how to do the job. Don’t take them away from us suddenly now.”
Doug Chapman, Alabama Cooperative Extension System regional agent for horticulture over 10 north Alabama counties, agrees growers aren’t paying workers wages that are below minimum wage.
“I can tell you that all of my growers are concerned,” said Chapman who is based in Athens. “The bottom line is there is no local labor, period. A lot of my growers say they never had a local person come by and apply for a job.”
What Americans see as backbreaking, sweaty, dirty labor, many immigrants see as a ticket out of overwhelming poverty in their home country, he said.
“They don’t want to go back to conditions that are frightening and unbearable at home, but they’re leaving Alabama for states with less restrictive laws,” he said.
Chapman said something is wrong with the system if growers can’t find people to get the job done.
“Some people here would rather sit at home and collect welfare, but these immigrants are eager to work long hard hours for a better life,” he said.