Prison Labor and “Papers Please” in Alabama

Alabama's harsh "papers please" anti-immigration law, HB56, has left the agriculturally-dependent state of Alabama with a massive shortage of labor to harvest everything from nuts to christmas trees.

Given that HB56 has also impacted other areas of Alabama's economy, and lead to the arrest of people who aren't brown, one could make a good case for repealing the law, but Alabama officials are going in a different direction.

The new plan to meet the state's labor shortage in the wake of HB56 is to replace the former migrant workforce with chain-gangs prison labor.

MIAMI — Alabama farmers have proposed using prisoners to work their fields to replace migrants who fled the state after it passed the country’s harshest anti-immigration law, officials said Tuesday.

The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industry officials met Tuesday in Mobile with farmers to discuss their proposal, a spokeswoman for the department told AFP. [...]

A statement by the department said the meeting with the farmers was convened “to help solve the chronic labor shortages created by Alabama’s new immigration law.”

There's so many ethical dilemmas that come to mind when considering this plan I can hardly believe its even being taken seriously.

This isn't the same as using prisoners to clean the side of public roads on behalf of the state. These prisoners would be working at private, for-profit businesses on behalf of the state.

And who would pay them? Could the citizens of Alabama be funding the workforce of a corporate farm? Are the prisoners subject to standard labor laws?

Should consumers be informed that their peanuts and pecans were harvested by prisoners?

I suppose if the south is allowed to use prison labor to pick their crops on a wide-scale, the next step is claiming the prisoners as private property, and then the south will have finally come full circle.