Alabama Racist Law Has Unexpected Consequences
So goes the name of the title (sans Racist… that was just my snark), but is this really such a surprise? Have all of us who worry about treating people like chattel not been saying this for years?
“THEY TOOK MY JOB!” (That when I had the opportunity to do, I didn’t want to do because it was long hours of grinding, back breaking, nasty work that didn’t pay shit so I then quit.)
Alabama law drives out illegal immigrants but also has unexpected consequences, By Pamela Constable
ALBERTVILLE, Ala. — Hidden behind the Banco del Sol and the Tienda El Nino is the economic pillar of this rural town: A massive factory that processes 130,000 chickens a day. Inside, headless plucked birds move along conveyor belts while 300 workers, in repeated deft strokes, slice each passing carcass into chunks of kitchen-ready meat.
For years, most poultry workers here were Mexican immigrants, including some who were in the country illegally. But last fall, after a tough state law against illegal immigrants took effect, many vanished overnight, rattling the town’s large Hispanic community and leaving the poultry business scrambling to find workers willing to stand for hours in a wet, chilly room, cutting up dead chickens.
‘Even someone born and raised in Albertville may not have the necessary skills or be able to pass a background check,’ said Frank Singleton, a spokesman for Wayne Farms, which owns the slaughterhouse. The firm held a job fair that attracted about 250 local residents, but few were hired, and some soon quit, daunted by the demanding work. Since the law took effect, he said, ‘our turnover rate has gone through the roof.’
Sponsors of the law say it has done exactly what they had hoped, driving tens of thousands of illegal immigrants from the state. The U.S. Justice Department has challenged some parts of the law, and President Obama’s announcement Friday of a temporary legal amnesty for more than 1 million young undocumented immigrants nationwide clashes directly with Alabama’s legislation.
‘All our activities will be for naught if the president grants amnesty to everyone,’ state Sen. Scott Beason, the chief sponsor of the Alabama law, said Friday. Still, with the U.S. Supreme Court expected to rule shortly on a similar law in Arizona, champions of the Alabama measure hope that their legal position will be largely vindicated. ‘If Arizona is a success, then Alabama will be a success, too,’ Beason said.
The state senator said he had ‘absolutely no doubt’ that the law, and the resulting exodus of illegal workers, has started putting more Alabamians to work. Beason noted that the state’s unemployment rate has fallen sharply since last fall, from 9.8 percent to 7.2 percent, and he said the new law was ‘a big part’ of the reason. ‘I get phone calls from people thanking me all the time,’ he said.
Nevertheless, a variety of employers in Alabama said they have not been able to find enough legal residents to replace the seasoned Hispanic field pickers, drywall hangers, landscapers and poultry workers who fled the state. There was an initial rush of job applications, they said, but many new employees quit or were let go.
Wayne Smith, 56, raises tomatoes on a family farm in the misty hills of Chandler Mountain, a 40-minute drive from Albertville. Last fall, he said, his entire Mexican crew ran off, and Smith and his neighbors scoured the area for new workers. The growers pay $2 for every large box of picked tomatoes, and a worker must be able to pluck fast all day, bent over in the hot sun, to fill two or three dozen boxes.
‘The whites lasted half a day, and the blacks wouldn’t come at all. The work was just too hot and hard for them,’ Smith said. He dismissed the argument, often made by critics of illegal immigration, that Americans might do the work if offered a higher and hourly wage. ‘We’ve been using Mexicans for 30 years, and now they’ve been run off,’ he said. ‘Everyone is worried about Arizona. If this law sticks, what’ll we do then?’
President Obama took it upon himself to pass the DREAM ACT and I hope that some of these kids and their families can come back to Alabama now. We need more paths to citizenship for people who are not criminals.