B12 Solipsism

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Alabama Crops Rotting in the field

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Indian Cucumber
Indian Cucumber

Oh, Alabama. Didn’t you learn anything from the Arizona fiasco?

Alabama’s new anti-immigrant law, the nation’s harshest, went into effect last month (a few provisions have been temporarily blocked in federal court), and it is already reaping a bitter harvest of dislocation and fear. Hispanic homes are emptying, businesses are closing, employers are wondering where their workers have gone. Parents who have not yet figured out where to go are lying low and keeping children home from school.

To the law’s architects and supporters, this is excellent news. “You’re encouraging people to comply with the law on their own,” said Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, who has a side career of drafting extremist immigration legislation for states and cities, notoriously in Arizona and now in Alabama.

Alabama’s law is the biggest test yet for “attrition through enforcement,” a strategy espoused by Mr. Kobach and others to drive away large numbers of illegal immigrants without the hassle and expense of a police-state roundup. All you have to do, they say, is make life hard enough and immigrants will leave on their own. In such a scheme, panic and fear are a plus; suffering is the point.

…The problems do not stop there. Farmers are already worrying that with the exodus, crops will go unpicked. Like much of the rest of the country, Alabama needs immigrant labor, because too many native-born citizens lack the skill, the stamina and the willingness to work in the fields — even in a time of steep unemployment.

(click here to continue reading It’s What They Asked For – NYTimes.com.)

Tomato Mountain Organic
Tomato Mountain Organic

Surprising to nobody who has ever lived on a farm1 or who reads this blog- Alabama agricultural businesses are having extreme difficulty finding people to pick crops once their intolerant anti-immigration bill passed, and farm laborers fled the state.

ONEONTA, Alabama (AP) — Potato farmer Keith Smith saw most of his immigrant workers leave after Alabama’s tough immigration law took effect, so he hired Americans. It hasn’t worked out: They show up late, work slower than seasoned farm hands and are ready to call it a day after lunch or by midafternoon. Some quit after a single day.In Alabama and other parts of the U.S., farmers must look beyond the nation’s borders for labor because many Americans simply don’t want the backbreaking, low-paying jobs immigrants are willing to take. Politicians who support the law say over time more unemployed Americans will fill these jobs2

Tomato farmer Wayne Smith said he has never been able to keep a staff of American workers in his 25 years of farming. “People in Alabama are not going to do this,” said Smith, who grows about 75 acres (30 hectares) of tomatoes in the northeast part of the state. “They’d work one day and then just wouldn’t show up again.” At his farm, field workers get $2 for every 25-pound (11.3-kilogram) box of tomatoes they fill. Skilled pickers can make anywhere from $200 to $300 a day, he said. Unskilled workers make much less. A crew of four Hispanics can earn about $150 each by picking 250-300 boxes of tomatoes in a day, said Jerry Spencer, of Grow Alabama, which purchases and sells locally owned produce.

A crew of 25 Americans recently picked 200 boxes — giving them each $24 for the day. It may make sense for some to stay at home. Unemployment benefits provide up to $265 a week while a minimum wage job, at $7.25 an hour for 40 hours, brings in $290. Spencer said the Americans he has linked up with farmers are not physically fit and do not work fast enough. “It’s the harshest work you can imagine doing,” Spencer said.

(click here to continue reading The Associated Press: Few Americans take immigrants’ jobs in US state.)

Let’s see, bust your ass, break your back, squatting in the hot sun and make $24 a day, or maybe more if you persevere a year or two, long enough to become skilled; or make $290 a week in an air-conditioned minimum wage job, making copies at Kinkos. Hmm, not much of a choice.

The only way banning illegal immigrants from farm labor will ever work is if either food costs to consumers jumps astronomically higher, or if minimum wage gets overturned by government fiat. I sincerely doubt the Republicans would be bold enough to eliminate minimum wage, even though they mention it every once and a while. And would you pay $17 for a single tomato? Probably not. So what’s the solution, besides allowing borders to open up? NAFTA, I guess, and more shipping of American jobs to places where $25 a day without benefits is adequate for a worker to survive.

Great plan you’ve come up with, immigrant haters in the GOP.

Footnotes:
  1. yes, I lived on a farm, but I don’t now, thanks god []
  2. despite any evidence []

Written by Seth Anderson

October 20th, 2011 at 8:13 pm

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