Many say Alabama’s immigration law is the toughest in the nation. When the law took effect, many Hispanics fled the state. As the spring planting season approaches, Alabama farmers must decide if they will change their approach this year.
“Our whole business is produce. We have to plant but we have to have it gathered. We are going to plant about the same as we’ve been doing because we just don’t know yet,” says John Aplin of Aplin Farmers.
Aplin and his family grow tomatoes, watermelons, peppers, pumpkins, and more. Unlike peanuts and cotton he needs extra hands to make his operation work.
“Most of the stuff we do in the produce business is manual labor, and it is like I said it is hands on, hand harvested, hand packed,” says Aplin.
When the law went into effect last September, his crew left. While many have returned, Aplin is unsure if they will stay. That uncertainty means they had to turn down big contracts, like one with Wal-Mart.
“We won’t commit to that because we don’t know what effects it’s going to have on us. If we can even maintain what we’ve got now much less adding on a big contract,” he says.
Although Aplin says he’s not changing the way he plants this year, if he can’t get enough labor to harvest it could be a disaster for his business.
“It’s detrimental. I mean, you have a very small window in the produce business you can’t wait. The product has to be harvested today. You’ve got one or two days to do it. Once you have passed that window there is no going back,” he says.
But Aplin says law makers do have that choice.
“We need to repeal this law and start back over. They want an immigration law, that’s fine. We need to trash the one that is no good, and start over with something that works.”
Democrat State Senator Billy Beasley of Barbour County is sponsoring a bill to scrap the immigration law. It will get a hearing next week in the Alabama senate’s judiciary committee.