In the wake of the state’s controversial immigration law, Alabama farmers are still struggling to fill empty farm labor positions and stop an exodus of Hispanic farm workers.
The bill, passed last summer, is one of the harshest in the nation. It requires all employers to verify the immigration status of employees by using E-Verify, an electronic system that interfaces with federal databases. In addition, the bill grants police the power to inquire about immigration status during routine stops and requires Alabama schools to determine the immigration status of students.
In the wake of this bill, Alabama has suffered a hemorrhaging of farm laborers. While many farms had been relying on illegal immigrants to do a significant number of jobs, many legal immigrants have left, citing fears of persecution and harassment.
In an effort to fill those jobs, Alabama officials are turning towards two new potential labor sources. Some farms are hoping that convict labor could help them shore up their dwindling workforce. The Alabama Secretary of Agriculture is currently discussing the possibility of convict labor with the Secretary of Corrections.
In addition, many farms are hoping that veterans could provide an important source of labor. The Agriculture Department as well as Alabama State University has applied for federal grants that offer money to train and hire returning veterans.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer