Who Could Have Seen this Coming? (Immigration Edition)

Via the AP:  Farmers say Ala immigration law could cost crops

Farmers in one of Alabama’s leading agricultural areas asked legislators Monday to make emergency changes to the state’s tough new law against illegal immigration, saying millions of dollars of crops are at risk in coming weeks because of a sudden lack of hands for harvest.


About 50 growers packed a truck-stop dining room 45 miles north of Birmingham. They pleaded with three north Alabama lawmakers to amend the law and save what they called the lifeblood of the state’s agriculture operations: The Hispanic workers who pick vegetables, gather chickens from poultry houses, pull sweet potatoes out of the ground and make the cardboard boxes that hold produce.

Those workers are leaving the state because they are intimidated by the law and without them, acres and acres of crops will be wasted, the farmers said.


Deputy Agriculture Commissioner Wayne Walker said state officials fear it could cost tens of millions of dollars in losses if farmers can’t find enough help for harvesting. Tomato growers in east Alabama already are suffering because the law scared away the people who normally pick their crops, he said.

Just like the Georgia law, Alabama’s attempt at a “get tough” approach to illegal immigrants was poorly thought out and did not take into account the reality of the complex interaction between agriculture and migrant labor in our economy.

Shockingly, simplistic solutions to complex problems are not solutions at all and, in the end, cause a whole set of new problems.  We need a comprehensive approach to immigration reform that actually takes into consideration the realities of the market forces at work that draw labor to the US in the first place.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, US Politics, , , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. To be fair, you can’t expect Alabama legislators to pay attention to news from as far away as a neighboring state can you?

  2. superdestroyer says:

    It is a sad state of affairs when picking tomatoes is such skilled labor that no Americans are capable of doing it and the skilled workers must be important.

    The unemployment rate in Alabama in 10%. Alabama has more than enough workers without importing a huge number of illegal aliens. Maybe the farmers should change their business models to face the new reality instead of demanding that the government continue to subsidize their businesses by maintaining open borders and unlimited immigration.

  3. john personna says:


    Or, we can just import all our tomatoes from Mexico and China.

  4. john personna says:

    (Seriously, note that this is what the law of comparative advantage says – that if we can’t grow tomatoes cheaper in Alabama than in Mexico, then we should not grow tomatoes. Those farmers should “retrain.”)

  5. Nikki says:

    Migrant workers were demonized and bigotry got the people to vote against their own best interests. Crops rot in the field and food prices soar higher.

  6. Nikki,

    I’m not sure what the situation in Alabama is, but in Georgia what happened is that the shift in political power in the legislature from rural districts to the cities, principally Atlanta, meant that nobody even bothered to think about how the immigration law would affect farming.

  7. PD Shaw says:

    Alabama, dependent on illegal labor and wages, who would have thunk?

  8. Terrye says:

    They should allow these kinds of workers to be in a guest worker program. It would not take that many workers to meet this need.

  9. matt says:

    @superdestroyer: You quite obviously have never had to work hard in a field all day long or you wouldn’t of made such a completely ridiculous comment. Picking fruit and vegetables all day long is a tough job. The job is made easier and faster by using various tricks of the trade but your average person has no idea what those tricks are…