For several decades, immigration has been the main source of economic growth in Alabama. Same with foreign investment and the people it brings in. Major swaths of the state would be sunk without both.
Immigration has brought not only economic growth but a much-needed cultural shift in the state. We now have ever more museums, schools, houses of worship of many varieties, and our theaters, movie houses, and orchestras are actually enjoying support. Alabama now has highly skilled hands that can do a variety of tasks that were impossible to get done before, from complex engineering to intricate tile work in public spaces. Of course the agriculture issue is gigantic: nearly all the workers were undocumented and now they are gone. Then there’s the food issue: without immigration, Alabama would be mostly burgers and chicken fingers. All of these industries, to one extent or another, rely on workers with sketchy documentation.
So what do the politicians do? This year, they whipped up an crazy xenophobic frenzy and passed a massive crackdown that led to a cruel mass exodus from the state. And they did this in the middle of a recession. Absolutely ghastly. And now the inevitable has happened: there is no one to fill these jobs. Industries are under serious strain. Businesses are going bust. Unemployment, which is already higher than the national average, is going up. There are no workers to do what the immigrants did because the necessary skills and work ethic just isn’t present in the native population (as any Alabama resident could have told you).
The latest solution: put the prisoners to work to fill the missing jobs.