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The tough new immigration law of Alabama may be stripping farmers of their workers but a state agriculture official said that prisons could be a quick fix.
The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries commissioner, John McMillan, revealed in an interview Thursday that inmates, through a work-release plan, could become a labor source for farmers who are worried that crops will perish in their fields now that Hispanic migrant workers are running away from the state.
With an economy that is based on agriculture, the mass departure of skilled, Hispanic migrant workers has left the crops in Alabama unharvested, and has resulted in millions of dollars of losses.
McMillan said, “We are optimistic that by Monday we will have some help for farmers.”
An anti-immigration law was recently passed by the state of Alabama, which a federal judge in September has left mostly intact by upholding the toughest provisions.
Some of these provisions include allowing law enforcement officials to arrest suspected illegal immigrants and directs school districts to check their students’ immigration status.
The provision that has greatly affected the access of farmers to labor is the one requiring businesses to make use of the federal E-Verify system to check on the immigration status of their employees.
According to the Alabama Farmers Federation, the effort of McMillan to bring inmate labor to farms as a quick fix is appreciated.
In a statement, the organization said, “Relative to the federal side, our efforts continue in working with Congress to improve the current H2A and H2B guest worker programs to get farmers and business the legal labor they need.”