Alabama Copies Georgia's Failed Plan To Replace Migrant Farmworkers

October 07, 2011 2:03 pm ET — Salvatore Colleluori


Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black (R) was in Washington, D.C. this week to testify about the $150 million in losses his state has suffered since the passage of its new anti-immigration law. On the same day, a University of Georgia study projected that Georgia's economy would lose $391 million and about 3,260 jobs this year.  

Georgia's plan to replace the migrant workers — both legal and undocumented — who left the state after the crackdown was to send in probationers to pick crops. Unfortunately, many of the probationers left due to the strenuous nature of the work.

After seeing the negative effect harsh immigration laws have had on agriculture and the difficulty of finding replacement labor, you might assume others would not want to follow in Georgia's footsteps. But yesterday, Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries Commissioner John McMillan (R) said the state would be sending in Corrections Department inmates to pick crops after many immigrant workers left, just as happened in Georgia.

While Alabama's law has also had effects outside of agriculture — almost 2,000 Hispanic children didn't show up to school following the implementation of the law — the greatest impact may be on independent farmers and small businesses who rely on both legal and undocumented labor for their livelihoods.