A restaurant owner in Birmingham, Alabama knew he had a problem after Alabama’s extreme immigration law went into effect. All nine of Steve Dubrinsky’s kitchen workers at his Jewish deli were legal immigrants, yet several of them have told Dubrinsky that he should hire people to replace them because they’re leaving with undocumented relatives or simply do not feel safe. He spoke to the Birmingham News about his sudden employment issue. “They are scared and I can’t blame them,” he said to the paper about his employees. “It is affecting a lot of restaurants. It’s a mess.”
Then his problems got worse. On the morning the newspaper published his quote, Dubrinsky heard a local radio host talking about if people should boycott his deli because of his sympathetic comments. An anti-immigrant website picked up the article, and Dubrinsky told the Huffington Post he was suddenly receiving hateful emails:
One reads: “well u can bet your ass that i will never eat in your resturant agian and will tell everybody i know what kind of person you are for suporting those dam wetback that are ruining our country.”
Another: “if you cant keep the doors open and employ legal people then it is time to close.”
And another: “I hope your unamerican establishment closes down!!!!”
On the day many workers planned to not show up to work as a protest against the immigration law, Dubrinsky struck a compromise with his workers to close early that day. After he hung a sign on his door explaining the closing, he only received more hate mail from those who had seen the sign.
Despite claims from Alabama politicians that American citizens will line up to take the jobs undocumented (and legal) immigrants leave, Dubrinsky has been unsuccessful in hiring additional workers to prepare for the likely vacancies in his staff. One worker left after only two hours of manning the grill.
Dubrinsky is hardly alone in not being able to find other Alabamians to replace his kitchen workers. Alabama farmers have been hurt the most economically by the state’s immigration law. Undocumented immigrants or even legal immigrants who are afraid have fled the state, leaving farmers without longtime workers during harvest. And they have not been able to replace their previous Hispanic workers with American citizens. Farmers report that replacement workers do not work as hard and often do not last either. “I’ve had people calling me wanting to work,” said Keith Smith, an Alabama potato farmer. “I haven’t turned any of them down, but they’re not any good. It’s hard work, they just don’t work like the Hispanics with experience.”
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley’s (R) office has set up a database to connect farmers and other businesses with workers looking for jobs, but no state official could tell the Associated Press how many people had actualy been hired to replace immigrants who have left. In the meantime, crops are rotting in the field because farmers don’t have enough workers and business owners are being harassed for showing concern for their legal workers.