From MyFoxAL.com, Jonathan Hardison, 19 Sept 2011.
CULLMAN, AL (WBRC) – State lawmakers in Cullman County got an earful today from local farmers who are worried their very livelihood is being threatened by the state’s controversial new immigration law.
Those farmers say if a federal judge allows the law to take effect during this fall season, they won’t have any workers to harvest their crop.
“I came today as a voter and concerned citizen, tell me, what do y’all have?” asked tree farmer Marc Thrailkil. “Y’all have heard a lot more than I have. Tell me, what have you heard and what are we gonna do about it?”
Thrailkill voiced the concerns of dozens of farmers who said they don’t approve of illegal immigration, but they can’t find anyone else to do the hard work of harvesting their crops and the workers they count on are fleeing the state.
“We’re not just backed up against a wall, we’re backed into a corner as it stands right now,” said sweet potato farmer Kim Haynes.
Haynes says he has five or six immigrant workers who he’s counting on to help harvest his crop in the next two months, but he’s in danger of losing them and his livelihood.
“If the judge rules on that and it goes through as the state of Alabama passed it, I guess they’ll have to arrest me ’cause I’ve got a crop to get out,” Haynes said.
“Sometimes you have to say no to a bad bill and start over,” Thrailkill said. “If they’d said ‘no,’ maybe we’d have some legislation that would be beneficial. I’m against illegal aliens being here, but i’m also a realist in that we have to find some way both sides can win on this issue.”
“They do the same thing you and I do,” Haynes said. “And the reason they’re here, like we stated in the meeting, we couldn’t get local people to work years and years ago, that’s why we have that big population of Hispanic workers.”
“Now people are gonna be even madder when you go to the store in the next few weeks and groceries are 10 to 12 percent higher,” Thrailkill said. “They’re gonna say ‘Why is that?’ Well, it’s all connected because if we can’t get the food out of the ground, and to the store, then it goes to waste and what does get harvested, the price goes up because of demand.”
“It’s a needed law, but we’ve gotta work through the process of cleaning the mess up,” state Sen. Paul Bussman (R)-Cullman said.
The mess Sen. Bussman is referring to is illegal immigration, but most of these farmers say the real mess is the law’s unintended consequences, something lawmakers are hearing firsthand.
“I think it’s about 50/50 right now,” Bussman said. “Some people are adamant they want illegal immigration fixed, some people are adamant this will affect their business and they’re concerned about that. We have to look at the big picture of these concerns and put it together where it works for everybody.”
Bussman and Rep. Jeremy Oden both said they want to find some kind of fix that would give the farmers relief, but that would take an act of the state legislature, and they’re not scheduled to meet again until February. Harvest is two weeks away and hanging over all of this is the expected ruling from a federal judge on whether any or all of the law can take effect.
“Really, we don’t need to move until we get the court’s side and what they’re gonna be ruling,” Rep. Oden said. “When we get that back we’ll have a better clarification of the bill from the court’s standing and where we can move from that.”