Reversing decades of progress

The national unemployment rate dropped again in January, which means in two weeks — when state and local numbers are compiled — Alabamians again will be treated to the spectacle of state legislators crediting the immigration law.

Their insistence that the international embarrassment benefited the state was especially tortured after December unemployment numbers came in.

By December, there was almost nothing left of the law.

Courts had blocked provisions banning undocumented immigrants from universities and requiring citizenship checks of public school children. They had blocked sections preventing undocumented immigrants from applying for jobs and requiring them to carry papers.

And then, on Dec. 1, the state Attorney General wisely prohibited state and local officials from checking citizenship documents when issuing licenses or transacting other business.

If immigrants are still leaving the state, it is not because of the tattered remnants of the immigration law, it is because of the bigotry that surrounded its passage.

Yet legislators again will congratulate themselves for their success at an invidious version of teaching to the test. They did not attack the all-important unemployment number by increasing jobs, but by getting rid of people.

With rallying cries of “What don’t you understand about illegal?” our elected representatives violated the supreme law as embodied in the U.S. Constitution.

Even though the Beason-Hammon Taxpayer and Citizenship Protection Act has become a legal irrelevance, its legacy is enduring.

London-based The Economist, with a worldwide circulation of 8 million, featured the state yet again last week in a story that opened with a quote from state Rep. Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, boasting the law “attacks every aspect of an illegal immigrant’s life.”

We proudly proclaim we do not care what the world thinks, but of course we do. We want the high-paying jobs that come with foreign investment. We are tired of being a symbol of America’s worst traits.

For almost 50 years, we have been trying to overcome the image of former Gov. George Wallace blocking the schoolhouse doors. In one ugly legislative session, we managed to erase five decades of progress.

It was a high price for a law that turned out to be symbol, not substance.,91148


1 Comment

Filed under Alabama politics, immigration

One response to “Reversing decades of progress

  1. Lee McCain

    I feel I must comment on this editorial on a number of levels. I suppose sitting comfortably behind a desk and going home to a nice subdivision one could easily and patronizingly call our immigration law all the epitaphs used in previous editorials . But illegal immigration has directly affected me. Four years ago I spent well over forty straight hours one weekend delivering illegal immigrants, a weekend in which seven out of my eleven deliveries I received absolutely no compensation for any of my work. I remember being utterly desperate in my thoughts of someone has to something about this problem. That year over thirty percent of our deliveries were uncompensated mostly due to illegals. I grew up in Decatur and always dreamed of coming back to practice here. But that year I decided to leave along with my partners. And before you think our decision was all monetary I would ask anyone to consider working next year four months, for free, on behalf of illegal immigrants and not even getting a thank you. Dealing with the problem turned me into someone I did not want to be. For me the immigration law was too little too late.
    Secondly to say we should worry what the writers of the Economist think is ludicrous. I spent time in Scotland in the 1990s and the British were grappling with ill effects of the North African, Eastern European, and Asian immigration. In fact at the Royal Infirmary of Scotland I distinctly recall the “irregulars” as non U.K., non documented immigrants were called were treated rather poorly by the staff. The British have passed many similar laws to control immigration so I have a hard time thinking they have some kind of moral high ground on the issue.
    Lastly I am not sure what kind of jobs we are concerned about losing. A number of years ago Decatur and Trinity gave tax incentives to Waynes Poultry making it one of Morgan County’s largest employer. And now I have heard Decatur referred to as a “meat processing based economy” rather derisively and dismissively in meetings discussing the demographics of North Alabama. So increasing low wage, low skill jobs helps Alabama how? I would argue Huntsville and Madison’s growth from foreign companies is because of the opposite effect of what is proposed in this editorial.
    I am absolutely against treating anyone poorly because of nationality but illegal immigration has a cost and unless it is dealt with effectively and fairly there will be many towns in Alabama that will face an irreparable decline because of these costs.

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