Watching this Associated Press video on the Washington Post website of desperate farmers in Alabama, trying to get their crops picked after a strict new anti-illegal immigration law has driven many Latino immigrants out of the state, reminded me of something I'd seen before.
In 2004, the political satire "A Day Without a Mexican" comically asked what might happen to California if all the Mexicans in the state mysteriously disappeared, bringing businesses, restaurants, and just about everything else dependent on immigrant labor to a halt.
Fast-forward to 2011: Latin American immigrants fearful of being deported under the new Alabama law have been packing up, leaving the state and their jobs. With Alabama's agricultural industry dependent on immigrant labor, farmers have been left in the lurch. An attempt to hire unemployed Americans to do the backbreaking work of harvesting crops isn't working out. "They're not physically in shape to do it, and, you know, probably not mentally tough enough to do it, some of them," one farmer complains in the video.
Photo by naslrogues/Flickr (Creative Commons)
Nearly a year after Arizona's SB 1070 took effect last July, the immigration spotlight has shifted to Alabama, where yesterday the governor signed an anti-illegal immigration law that is being described as the nation's most stringent yet.
Like SB 1070, the Alabama law would allow local police to check the immigration status of people they detain. But there are other elements - including a business component patterned after an earlier Arizona measure - that make the law particularly contentious, and lawsuits challenging it are already in the works.
Among the many news reports today, a few good ones have helped explain the law and put it in perspective. An Associated Press story today broke down its key elements:
Among other things, the law makes it a crime for landlords to knowingly rent to an illegal immigrant.
Another provision makes it a crime to transport a known illegal immigrant. Arizona's law appears narrower: It includes language against human smuggling and makes it illegal to pick up laborers for work if doing so impedes traffic.
Alabama's law also goes further in requiring schools to check the immigration status of their students. The measure does not prohibit illegal immigrants from attending public schools; lawmakers said the purpose instead is to gather data on how many are enrolled and how the much the state is spending to educate them.