by Lindsey George
A recent New York Times article, “When the Uprooted Put Down Roots,” discusses the success of New Roots, a nationwide program launched by the International Rescue Community (IRC) that helps immigrants and refugees establish community gardens, farmers’ markets, food pantries, and farm-based businesses.
The program also provides refugees with training and skills such as soil and irrigation techniques. These skills have enabled many of the immigrants and refugees in communities across the country make the leap from community gardens to independent farms, providing necessary support for themselves and their families, as they continue to establish their own roots in this country.
When this IRC program was created, it was developed to not only enable immigrants and refugees, but to also attempt to “fill the void” of experienced farm workers. With the training New Roots provides, these immigrants and refugees are able to provide crops to farmers’ market, grocery stores, and restaurants. With the addition of these crops, communities around the country are benefiting from the success of the New Roots program.
Meanwhile, in Alabama, fields of ripe tomatoes are simply rotting on the vine due to legislation passed late last month. HB 56, which requires employers to implement strict immigration-verification procedures, has forced many immigrants to flee the state. Without pickers, desperate farm owners are pleading with the state capitol. Unfortunately, these cries have fallen on deaf ears, as state officials insist that they will do nothing. Despite Republican State Senator Scott Beason’s assurances that the “law would help free up jobs for Alabamians,” the fields remain empty.
While New Roots is providing vital assistance to refugee and immigrant workers who continue to provide desirable and needed products, Alabama officials are chasing their migrant workers away and destroying the local economy in the process. Compounding the problem, as the Alabama crops continue to rot, it in turn decreases supply and inevitably raising prices on American consumers.
Instead of relentlessly enforcing draconian immigration laws and otherwise subjecting these individuals to abject discrimination, we should utilize our country’s assets, assist those who seek a better life, and treat immigrants as positive contributors to our society.