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.