Blog of Rights

Help Wanted: Farmers' Plight Proves Alabama's H.B. 56 Was Never About Creating Jobs

By Sandhya Bathija, Washington Legislative Office at 3:17pm

Since Alabama’s draconian racial profiling law went into effect, farmers have been crying out for help.

Alabama’s H.B. 56 requires state and local police officers to detain and investigate people based on “suspicion” that they may be undocumented immigrants, promoting the use of racial profiling and raising concerns about the detention of citizens and legal residents. H.B. 56 even authorizes the Alabama Department of Homeland Security to hire and maintain its own immigration police force.

Many farmers have opposed the law from the start — knowing that it would lead to their predominantly Latino workforce fleeing for fear of harassment and mistreatment. Members of the Alabama state legislature who supported and passed H.B. 56 pegged it as a jobs bill, claiming it would open up jobs for Americans. They promised concerned farmers that they would get the workers they needed.

But that hasn’t been the case. Since the law went into effect on Sept. 28, crops have been rotting in the fields as Latino workers have fled for fear of being harassed under the new law. And hardly any Americans have applied to refill those positions. Here’s one farmer’s tragic story, who said that Sen. Beason promised “Alabamians would take these jobs.”

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Today, an editorial in the Washington Post pointed out that what’s happening in Alabama is “laying bare the nation’s hypocrisy over unskilled immigrants, whose legal entry into the country is blocked in most cases even though their labor remains much in demand.”

The editorial continued, “Of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the country, some 7 million are in the job force. The idea that they can be deported or replaced en masse with jobless U.S. workers is far-fetched. That’s the message that Alabama farmers have been giving their elected leaders, so far to little avail.”

The Post calls on Congress and the federal government to fix this problem by enabling workers to legalize their status and put them on a path to citizenship.

That would be true immigration reform. It’s now abundantly clear that H.B. 56 was never about jobs, but rather a way to target certain groups of people simply based on how they look.

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