Alabama May Use Inmates To Fill Immigrant Labor Void

Agriculture officials in Alabama are looking into using prisoners to fill a labor shortage that the agency blames on the state's controversial new law targeting undocumented immigrants.

The Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries is meeting with south Alabama farmers and businesses in Mobile on Tuesday. Deputy commissioner Brett Hall says the agenda includes a presentation on whether work-release inmates could help fill jobs once held by immigrants.

Hall says planting season is coming up, and some growers fear most of their workers are gone. The agriculture agency says the new law has caused a chronic labor shortage on Alabama farms.

Prison spokesman Brian Corbett says the state has about 2,000 work-release prisoners, and most already have jobs.

Corbett says the prison system isn't the solution to worker shortages caused by the law.

Alabama's proposal is similar to one brought up in June by Georgia Gov. Nathan Lewis, who proposed replacing undocumented immigrant workers with parolees from Georgia prisons to fill the labor issue after Georgia passed its own tough, immigration law.

"There are some 11,000 opportunities currently available in the agriculture community. I believe this would be a great partial solution," Deal said back in June.

Alabama's law, which passed by large margins in both chambers of the Republican-led legislature earlier this year, has been described by supporters and opponents as the nation's toughest state crackdown on illegal immigration.

Based on reporting by the Associated Press.

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