"You want to screw up your economy? Screw up your government."
By Eric K. Ward
The reckless hunt for undocumented immigrants is placing all of us in the economic crossfire.
Recently, U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn ruled that portions of HB 56, a controversial Alabama immigration bill signed into law last June, could now be implemented. As a result, already financially strapped local police and school administrators will be forced to shift precious resources to assume an enforcement role that blurs the historic line between local and federal authority.
For local communities, these unfunded mandates are no longer simply a way to express frustration with a broken immigration system. Rather, they have become an economic problem that cuts across class, race, and ethnicity. Under the misguided notion of “controlling undocumented immigration,” white men are experiencing the negative economic impact of these laws right along with black and Latino Americans.
Alabama could lose almost 18,000 jobs and approximately $2.6 billion as a result of the new immigration law, according to the economic analysis firm the Perryman Group. The Immigration Policy Center, a national think tank, reminds us that along with white and black working families, “Latino and Asian entrepreneurs and consumers add billions of dollars and tens of thousands of jobs to Alabama’s economy.” As the state clamps down on immigration, these entrepreneurs and consumers may take their money and jobs elsewhere. And laborers are fleeing already. Tomato farmers in Alabama are complaining that they can’t find enough pickers and that their crops are dying on the vine. Like the restrictive Arizona law that preceded it, the Alabama law serves as a dangerous decoy that allows politicians to avoid passing bills that provide real security and reinforce the rule of law in immigration policy in the United States. It also undermines the economies of our states and local communities. Some politicians argue that controlling immigrants without papers is so critical that it trumps everything else. But in times like these, state immigration laws should strengthen our communities. They shouldn’t be about sacrificing our local economies because federal politicians can’t do their jobs. They should be about putting people back to work so they can put bread on the table. It’s time politicians do the job that citizens elected them to do: provide a climate that attracts income to our communities rather than chasing it away. In the midst of economic adversity, the types of immigration laws recently passed by politicians are simply irresponsible.
Eric K. Ward is a longtime civil rights activist and founder of Which Way Forward: African Americans, Immigration, Race. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.