Well, we don’t have to guess any longer. In June, Alabama passed a tough immigration law and it was immediately challenged by the Obama administration, as has been done in other states. But unlike other states, a federal judge declined to block the Alabama law, leaving Alabama with the toughest law against illegal immigration in the nation.
The result is not too difficult to guess. Alabama farmers have had so much trouble finding farm laborers (even in a state that has higher unemployment than the national average) that they have had to downsize or even let crops die on the vine. According to one farmer “I’ve had people calling me wanting to work. I haven’t turned any of them down, but they’re not any good. It’s hard work, they just don’t work like the Hispanics with experience.” Another tried to use the government’s visa program to hire foreign workers, but it was too difficult. “You can’t find legal workers. Basically they last a day or two, literally.” Another says “People in Alabama are not going to do this. They’d work one day and then just wouldn’t show up again.”
In order to fight this problem, the state governor started a new program to help farmers and other businesses find new sources of legal labor, but a state spokeswoman admits that they don’t know of anyone who has been hired because of the program.
Part of the problem is that most farm jobs are in remote rural areas, while most of the unemployed live in cities.
Another problem is that farm work is largely paid by results, not by hour. For example, field workers are paid $2 for every 25 pound box of tomatoes they pick. A skilled worker can make as much as $300 a day, but when a farmer recently hired a crew of 25 legal Americans for the job, they were only able to pick enough to get paid $24 each for the day, which is less than minimum wage and even less than unemployment benefits. The irony is that the skilled workers are all illegal immigrants.
I talked about this with a quite conservative person who said the problem is that Americans are lazy. I found this to be contradictory with several conversations I’d had with him before about those evil immigrants stealing the jobs of hard-working Americans.
I’m still pretty convinced that this is a designed plan to end benefits for unemployed and welfare. First you kick out all the illegal immigrants who do ridiculously hard jobs that nobody else wants to do. Then you cut out the benefits, forcing Americans into those jobs lest they die.
All that’s left after that is to pop the cork on the champagne bottle and spoon up some caviar!
I think that the only way to balance against this law without repealing it is to make migrant worker programs easier and more accessible. We get a lot of Jamaicans here to pick apples from August to December, and it helps the farmers who can’t get locals to do the work. Farm work is some of the hardest there is. It’s the closest thing we have to forced labor outside of mining. Unless they grow up in it, Americans think it’s beneath them or they try it out and can’t handle it.
Migrant workers have much more incentive to work hard, stick around the job, and are much more skilled at doing the work because that’s what they were doing back home as well. If we allowed foreign workers to come here legally, we could tax their incomes, take money out for SS and other benefits they don’t qualify for, and help out our economy all at the same time.
Xenophobia is not a good basis for legislation, no matter where you are. It’s just too bad Alabama is learning that the hard way.
My favorite line in the second linked article: “Spencer said the Americans he has linked up with farmers are not physically fit and do not work fast enough.”
Jeff and 1032 -“Migrant workers have much more incentive to work hard”. Thats interesting and correct. If they don’t work they don’t eat or earn, if Americans don’t work, the governemnt will just pay them and feed them. Sounds like we are encouraging and accepting poor performance for Americans.
All antagonism aside, we do need a guest worker program in this country. And we do need to encourage productivity while discouraging complacency.
This is what happens, when Republicans start believing their rhetoric. Could this possibly result in a blue Alabama? Can you imagine all the conservatives heads exploding at one time?
Actually this is just what happens when you remove an artificial “third world” labor force – yet still expect to pay third world wages. Is it “lazy” or “logical” – for someone not to accept a job that will come no-where near covering what it costs to live. Not live extravagantly – just buy food, insurance, gas, and electric. The path we are on now will ultimately result in workers willing to live that type of life (after we have massive deflation it makes some sense for people to work for such small wages). But that is the real sad part, the great homogenization is at hand – problem for us is that means our lifestyle will be greatly diminished her in the US as other parts of the world see theirs increase. We will all meet somewhere well below what the U.S. is accustomed.
We’re having an interesting variant of this situation in WA State. Our State laws are still quite sane, but Homeland Security has been overloading our State with huge increases in Border Patrol agents. In addition to the local unrest caused by a “cure” where there is no illness, this year there’s no one to pick our apples because nobody is willing to bring a crew into this nest of idle La Migra boys. Sadly, our local wingnuts just tend to get shriller when people try to point out the correlation.