The cost of racial intolerance

Alabama’s immigration laws are embarrassing the state, and costing it money

by Tamsin McMahon

When Alabama passed America’s most aggressive immigration law last year, legislators heralded the bill as a cure for the state’s high unemployment.

Under the new law, virtually all interactions with any government official would become a test of an immigrant’s status—from roadside stops by police, to enrolling children in public school, to paying a utility bill.

The idea was to make it so difficult for illegal immigrants to live and work in the United States that they would simply pack up and leave, freeing up thousands of jobs for out-of-work Americans.

Leave they did. Officials say Alabama’s illegal alien population fell by 75,000 in the three months following the bill’s passage. But when it came to putting more Americans back to work, the reality has proven to be a lot more complicated.

Alabama’s poultry processing industry complained it couldn’t find enough local workers willing to spend long hours gutting chickens for low pay. Companies, it has emerged, are being forced to import African and Haitian refugees to do the work.

Meanwhile, Alabama became the butt of international jokes when police arrested a German Mercedes-Benz executive as well as a Honda manager from Japan for allegedly not having their proper immigration papers with them during roadside stops. Both were on temporary assignments overseeing Alabama’s burgeoning foreign auto industry; Honda has more than 4,000 employees in Alabama, with an investment worth $1.4 billion.

Rival states quickly turned news of the arrests into a chance to promote themselves as more friendly to international business. “We are the ‘Show Me State,’ not the ‘Show Me Your Papers State,’ ” trumped Missouri’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

It’s not just Alabama that is struggling with the fallout from its tough stand on illegal immigrants. Five other states have also enacted such laws. Georgia witnessed an estimated 40 per cent drop in the state’s farm workers, triggering nearly $140 million in agricultural losses in 2011 as unpicked produce rotted in fields. The state has since begun shipping in prisoners to help at harvest time. In Arizona, churches complained they witnessed an immediate drop in attendees and donations after immigration laws went into effect. One church reportedly went into foreclosure.

Far from putting more Americans back to work, business leaders complained the laws were discouraging foreign investment. Spanish bank BBVA Compass has scrapped plans for an $80-million office tower in Birmingham over immigration concerns. “We’ve used difficulties in other states to make sure those people come and look here,” David Bronner, head of Alabama’s pension system, told the Birmingham News. “We’ve just used a hammer and we’ve hit ourselves over the head with it.”




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The cost of racial intolerance

  1. I’m quite sure Alabama has gone well beyond embarassment long ago.

  2. Uh-oh. Alabama is importing Africans again? Someone had better notify president Lincoln.

  3. Poorly written article. Alabama’s new governor (A dermatologist) went overboard with a too restrictive immigration law. There have been problems, they realize it, and the law is being fixed (no mention of this in the article – guess it didn’t fit the premise – you know, stupid Alabamians). And, the part about BBVA Compass bank halting construction of an office tower in Alabama due to the immigration law? Sorry, total BS. BBVA is a Spanish bank that is on the verge of collapse (along with Spain’s economy) unless they get a huge EU bailout. Do a little more research next time.

    • Mauvilla why don’t you help in the chicken processing plant or picking some of the produce to help your farmers out? You mean you can’t find any Alabama workers to work in the fields or the chicken processing plants and you have to import labor from Hatti and Africa? lmao… Great going. Jobs going to foreign workers not to Alabamans. So let me get this straight you put a law in to make it difficult for illegals aliens to work but have to pay for the transportation from the country of origin, then find them housing and medical care. Wow. (To every one who is at risk in Alabama come to California. I also invite the Honda and Mercedes Benz officials to California to see if the would like to relocate. As far as the BBVA goes, every time a story comes that shows how this law has impacted states, its like a ripple on a quite pond. Even Georgia now has problems with their medical re-certfication. I also invite every medical person who is having problems detailing their re-certification, contact a California Department of Medical Licensing, we need your skills and your work ethic.

      • I don’t live in Alabama any more. I live in Canada, which should be obvious – I’m reading Macleans. However, I HAVE worked in chicken processing plants AND on farms in the past. in fact, to pay for college, there was a time when I performed almost every minimum wage job out there. I think you are confused or miss the point. Alabama elected a new Gov last year and they are trying to do what a Gov is supposed to do – improve the economy and living conditions for their constituents. The Alabama immigration law was supposed to create an environment where these companies were forced to hire legal Alabamians and lower the high AL unemployment numbers (8.5%). In a democratic society, a Gov can’t tell a private company who to hire. The law didn’t work. These companies are so addicted to the illegal (below minimum wage) labor they are doing everything possible to find ways around the law. It’s not the Gov who is bringing in Haitians, it’s the companies who are finding creative ways to skirt the immigration law. As for California, I wouldn’t wish the economic situation there on my worst enemy. There is a reason people are moving out of California in record numbers (mostly to Texas).

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