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.