AL Immigration Law Backfires
Written by Faith Anderson on October 7, 2011
Adverse Effects of the New AL Bill
Rick Pate, owner of a commercial landscaping company in Montgomery, Alabama, lost two of his most experienced workers, both of which were in the country legally. “They just feel like there is a negative atmosphere for them here. They don’t feel welcome. I don’t begrudge them. I’d feel nervous too,” Pate said. Pate spent thousands of dollars training the two workers to install irrigation systems before they fled. Although it’s not clear how many of the estimated 185,000 Hispanic people in the state of Alabama have fled, Bill Caton, president of Associated General Contractors of Alabama, estimated one-fourth of the commercial building work force had left since the law was put into effect last week. Commercial construction is a more than $7 billion-a-year industry in Alabama.
Legislators hoped the law would help legal residents struggling from the nearly 10% unemployment. One of the new bill’s authors, Republican Senator Scott Beason, said he expected short-term problems, but has received “thank you” calls from two people so far who replaced illegal immigrants who fled their jobs. “We have the best law in the country and I stand by what we’ve done,” said Beason. On Chandler Mountain in north Alabama, tomato farmer Lana Boatwright reported that only eight of the 48 Hispanic workers she needed for harvest showed up after the law took effect. Those who did show up were visibly frightened. “My husband and I take them to the grocery store at night and shop for them because they are afraid they will be arrested,” Boatwright said. Tomato farmer Chad Smith said his family stands to lose up to $150,000 because there aren’t enough employees to pick the tomatoes spoiling in their fields. “We will be lucky to be in business next year,” he said.
Alabama’s Law Toughest in the Nation
Blake Corder, president of the Home Builders Association of Tuscaloosa, reported that Hispanic workers involved in fixing up the tornado-ravaged neighborhoods had left the area, and schools are concerned about students who have suddenly stopped showing up for class. Out of 34,000 Hispanic students, 2,285 were absent on Monday, even though state school officials have tried to assure parents that they won’t turn them over to the police or deny their children an education. According to an Alabama resident who didn’t want to be identified out of fear of the law said people are afraid to venture out during daylight. “People are just not going to work. They don’t want to be arrested,” she said. In the meantime, builders have been unable to find replacement workers and significant delays in projects are expected. Once the economy picks up and construction is back to normal, the impact will increase, said Russell Davis, executive vice president of the Home Builders Association of Alabama. “There is going to be a void,” Davis said. “No question.”