While Alabama Cracks Down on Illegal Immigration, Department of Labor Threatens Legal Variety

As portions of Alabama's law designed to curb illegal immigration remain on appeal, proposed changes by the U.S. Department of Labor to a federal visa program threaten to raise migrant labor costs by more than 50 percent in the state.

Jim King, vice president of natural resources for forestry management company Westervelt, estimates that the new hourly pay rate for workers in Alabama under the H-2B visa program would be between $13.06 and $21.16, depending on industry and county. King says that those workers currently make $7.25 to $8.37 per hour.

The Department of Labor claims that the proposed changes “focus on enhancing employee recruitment efforts for U.S. workers and strengthening the necessary protections for foreign workers brought here under this temporary program,” according to USA Today.

But people in the Alabama's forestry and restaurant industries say that despite the struggling economy, Americans aren’t willing to do the work that H-2B immigrant laborers do—a sentiment that should resonate with Colorado farmers who tried to hire locals after an increase in the H-2A minimum wage last summer. (The H-2A visa is similar to the H-2B but covers agricultural jobs.) Many of the domestic workers walked off the job saying that the work was too hard, and some Colorado farmers struggled to make harvest.

Chris Isaacson, executive vice president of the Alabama Forestry Association, says that even if Americans do fill these jobs, the proposed changes will increase the cost of replanting in Alabama “to the point where we believe many landowners will choose not to [re]plant.”

Only 66,000 H-2B visas may be issued per year, and neither the H-2A nor the H-2B program offer a legal pathway to citizenship. Shikha Dalmia has noted for Reason:

[These temporary visas] are meant only for seasonal jobs and are self-liquidating. This means that once a worker has installed a piece of machinery or assisted a landscape company get through its peak season, the visa automatically expires.

With the Department of Labor’s proposed changes set to take effect at the end of the month, those self-liquidating jobs might not even be an option as some Alabama employers will struggle to hire seasonal workers at all.

Read Dalmia on how illegal immigrants are not “queue-jumpers who illegally crossed the border ahead of those patiently waiting their turn," because “there is no such line—a legal pathway to citizenship for unskilled workers.”

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  • ||

    Nick Gillespie: BBQ'D in an SUV!

  • Suki||

    FTFA,

    Toxicology tests and other investigations are ongoing as state police try to figure out why a man burned to death in a sport-utility vehicle parked in a western Pennsylvania Walmart parking lot.

    The Jacket at a Walmart? You must be joking or there are more hands in this plot than are apparent from the article.

  • ||

    The article said nothing about The Jacket being found there, thank God.

  • Live Free or Diet||

    What a shame.
    BBQing should be at a low enough temperature not to burn the meat.

  • Suki||

    +69

  • Suki||

    Can't they get some tree hugging hippies to plant the little trees, for love instead of money?

  • Live Free or Diet||

    They are all busy getting lice camping out at OWS.

  • Suki||

    The tree growers need to rent some buses and send them to Manhattan for a free trip to "the belly of the beast."

  • Federal Dog||

    Geez. If only there were some way to change the law to make it more efficient.

    That can, and should, be done, but for whatever reason, both parties refuse to do so. If voters force them, they will have no choice.

    So force them. If democrats could seize control of health insurance in the middle of the night, they could easily have done this too. They refused. Why?

  • ||

    Why?

    Starts with a "U". Ends with a "nion".

  • Raston Bot||

    ...more of these jobs could be filled by U.S. workers if they were aware of the opportunity and paid prevailing wages."

    Davis-Bacon'ing seasonal migrant labor now? Wow, Hilda Solis, your Dept of Labor is on a roll.

  • jtuf||

    But people in the Alabama's forestry and restaurant industries say that despite the struggling economy, Americans aren’t willing to do the work that H-2B immigrant laborers do—a sentiment that should resonate with Colorado farmers who tried to hire locals after an increase in the H-2A minimum wage last summer. (The H-2A visa is similar to the H-2B but covers agricultural jobs.) Many of the domestic workers walked off the job saying that the work was too hard, and some Colorado farmers struggled to make harvest.

    I support tripling the number of permanent immigration visas we give out as a matter of principle, but I have difficulty believing that we can't get current Americans to harvest crops or plant trees. Out here in Bergen County, NJ, folks pay farmers for the privileged of picking crops and volunteer to plant things. They are so desperate for green volunteer jobs, that most of the local environmental nonprofits have volunteers weeding the forests.

    I think the problem isn't that we can't find Americans willing to pick crops or plant trees. The problem is that these Americans aren't willing to live in Colorado or Alabama. It looks like there's a niche for a nonprofit to bring East Coast volunteers to the heartland where they do manual labor. The forest or farm manager can pay the nonprofit a fee for their contribution.

    The WWF charges a few thousand dollars for ecotours in North America that net them a 5% to 10% profit. It's all about the marketing. http://www.worldwildlife.org/travel/

  • Gojira||

    Cool story, bro.

    p.s. There is no such thing as "unauthorized" labor. You do not have the right to tell other people that they may or may not sell their labor to a willing buyer.

  • GILMORE||

    Brittanicus|11.7.11 @ 7:06PM|#

    Also, our country faces a serious problem with Bloggers invading other people's blogs and posting screeds on other people's property, attempting desperately to piggyback on other blogs' popularity, because their own nonsense doesn't actually attract any traffic to their sites...

    this violation of Blog Sovereignty must end! Send these people back from whence they came!....

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