Businesses, Politicians at Odds Over Alabama's Immigration Law


Baldwin County farmer Donnie Waters says replacing migrant workers with Alabamians hasn't been easy.

"They're not very efficient at all."

Waters says he's lost dozens of Hispanic workers since the immigration law went into effect and has been forced to use work release inmates to plant and pick crops because he can't find locals willing to work.

"We've had quite a few applications, but they don't want to work," he says. "They're doing that so they can tell the unemployment office they're seeking a job."

But Alabama Senator Scott Beason is telling a different story. Beason, who sponsored the immigration bill,-credits the law for putting more Alabamians to work. He referred to the falling unemployment rate, which fell from 9.8 percent to 7.2 percent since the law went into effect, as an example.

But Donnie Waters isn't buying it.

"They talk about the unemployment being so much lower," Waters said. "Well, it's taking 15 people to do what eight used to do so figure the numbers. He's looking at it from his side, and I'm looking at it from mine. He needs to come out here and work with these people, and he'll see the difference, and he can tell why we want a good labor force."

Phyllis Pearson is also having a hard time finding workers.

"It takes an awful lot more Americans to get the same job done," she said. "In six months, I've gone through 150 people already."

Pearson, who owns a condo cleaning business, says although she supports legal U.S. citizenship, the immigration law has put a choke hold on her hiring capabilities.

"Migrants are hard workers. Americans are as well, but it takes four or five more that a foreign worker would do."

Many people say politicians in both Washington and Montgomery are out of touch with small business owners regarding the immigration law and want lawmakers to cut some of the red tape and make it easier for foreign workers to obtain visas or U.S. citizenship.

Senator Beason's office in Montgomery did not respond to a request for an interview.

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