The relatively new anti-immigration law in Alabama, HB 56, has caused much controversy. This article in the Atlantic Wire brings to our attention how harsher anti-immigration laws have backfired on the state’s economy. As the growing season draws near, farmers find themselves running short on field hands despite the state’s 9.3% unemployment. Alabama simply cannot find anyone willing to work for the wage they’re offering, except prisoners. The article doesn’t mention if the prisoners are even willing to work in the fields, and I doubt they will have the same level of carefulness and ambition that is seen in the migrant workers. In addition to that, everyone who was at one time willing to work for a fair wage most likely left when Alabama turned a blind eye to the larger agricultural businesses paying illegal immigrants $0.25 an hour.
We cannot expect an exodus from the cities and suburbs to the rural farmlands of Alabama just to rebuild the employment infrastructure. Those with jobs will prefer them over the arduous tasks of field work, and some unemployed simply lack the will to work long shifts for two week periods for mediocre payment. It seems that they take city-dwellers, throw them into a field, and expect a full day’s work. This may fail, but perhaps that is what they intend: maybe then things will return to the way they were. Americans incessantly complain about the fairness of hiring illegal immigrants over citizens, but when it comes time for them to step up and actually perform labor, we call a sick day. Finally, this article appears to imply that only a migrant worker can pick crops, when in reality it’s a skilled occupation that requires experience, endurance, and patience… three facets lacking in the modern day workforce.