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Consequences of Mitt Romney’s Immigration Approach on Display in Alabama

by Pili Tobar on 05/14/2012 at 11:45am

Since the early stages of the GOP primary, Mitt Romney has championed extremist immigration policies like “self-deportation,” a radical right-wing strategy that aims to purge America of the 11 million undocumented immigrants already in our country.  This policy, developed by Romney advisor Kris Kobach, has been passed into law by a handful of states.  Although key provisions of the Arizona and Alabama laws remain blocked by the courts, they are already having an impact on the ground.  An Associated Press story today highlights the consequences of these policies on Alabama’s agriculture industry, including how HB 56-induced labor shortages have forced farmers to cut back on the number of crops they’re planting this season:

As the article begins:

Some Alabama farmers say they are planting less produce rather than risk having tomatoes and other crops rot in the fields a second straight year because of labor shortages linked to the state’s crackdown on illegal immigration.

Keith Dickie said he and other growers in the heart of Alabama’s tomato country didn’t have any choice but to reduce acreage amid fears there won’t be enough workers to pick the delicate fruit.

Some farmers lacked enough hands to harvest crops because immigrants fled the state after Gov. Robert Bentley signed the immigration law last fall, and some told The Associated Press they fear the same thing could happen this year.

“There’s too much uncertainty,” said Dickie, who farms with his brother on a ridge called Straight Mountain, about 40 miles northeast of Birmingham…

Mac Higginbotham, an expert with the federation, said this growing season is important for the state’s farmers, about 1,100 of whom grow labor-intensive produce.

“I think this year will really show how much of a labor shortage is actually out there and it will reflect in the produce availability (and) prices eventually,” he said.

Not only are Alabama farmers being forced to cut back on planting, but they are also taking more dramatic options like moving to other states, or contemplating closing down shop entirely.  According to the AP: “A major squash producer in north Alabama is cutting back production and moving some crops to Tennessee because of uncertainty over the law, said John Aplin, a fourth-generation farmer who serves on the state board that oversees farmer markets statewide.”

The article also quotes farmer, Keith Dickie, who grows tomatoes.  The fruits are too delicate to pick with machines.  Dickie has cut back on planting this year, but worries that he still might not have enough workers, saying: “If it’s not I guess we’ll sell out and find something else to do.”

A University of Alabama economist estimated the price tag of HB 56 to be a whopping $11 billion to the state.

As Romney continues to promote his self-deportation policy across the nation, just imagine what would happen if the policies leading to such damage in Alabama were extended nationwide.

To read the story in its entirety, click here.

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