Since the Alabama Legislature passed its anti-immigration law in June, it has been left in place while it has been challenged for its constitutionality. In that time, Latinos in the state have fled in huge numbers, leaving many farm operations with fewer workers than ever.
With the mass exodus of both legal and illegal Latino workers, farmers have turned to Americans, and, by many of the farmers’ admission, the Americans aren’t cutting it.
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These are unrewarding, backbreaking jobs that many Americans are ill-trained and ill-prepared to do. Frankly, Americans have not had to do these jobs because Latino workers have been plentiful.
And here we see the dichotomy of immigrant labor, legal and otherwise, in the absence of comprehensive reform.
Illegal immigrant labor, no matter how much of a benefit for capitalists around this country, is just that — illegal. It hurts this country, our fundamental principles, and seems to make it impossible to have a conversation about guest worker programs that make sense.
It’s the underground employment system that everyone knows about but no one fixes that builds up resentment and fear on one end, and the inability to see the value of legitimate immigration reform policies that work for our benefit on the other.
The more anti-immigration laws that get passed in this country without a lot of carrots, but loaded with sticks, the slower we will be to achieve a commonsense, common ground approach to the problem. As it stands now, it’s a wedge issue that has lost any real meaning, that is, it’s all political — right vs. left — and not about fortifying a work force that will grow and benefit the economy.
Alabama’s law shows the shortcomings of not having a plan in place sooner, and is an example of a growing trend that takes us further from where we need to be as a reasoned nation looking to pass laws that benefit us all.
THE ISSUE Immigration reform in Alabama has farmers in crisis mode.
WE SAY Focus on illegal immigration makes it harder to find reasonable solution.
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