Alabama farmers have proposed using prisoners to work their fields to replace migrants who fled the state after it passed a tough anti-immigration law, Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industry officials said Tuesday.
“The suggestion to use prisoners who are eligible for work release programs was made as a way to help farmers fill the gap and find sufficient labor,” said Amy Belcher of the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industry.
Known as HB56, the new law requires local police to verify the immigration status of anyone they have a “easonable suspicion of being in the country illegally.
Oddly, there was no mention of hiring law-abiding Alabama citizens to work the fields.
The Obama administration has challenged the constitutionality of the Alabama immigration law, arguing it infringes on federal powers, and federal courts have blocked key provisions pending a definitive ruling.
But the law touched off an exodus of mainly Hispanic workers who moved to other states because of fears of being deported, prompting complaints by farm and construction industry groups of a shortage of workers in one of the poorest US states.
The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that there were about 120,000 undocumented immigrants living in the state before the law passed.