Immigrant law not needed

The Legislature should repeal the state’s immigration law. It is inhumane, it costs too much money, it burdens citizens and — according to a recent study — it is unnecessary.
In June 2011, the state Legislature was hard at work making sure that the bill it passed to chase undocumented immigrants from the state would be so extreme that Alabama would make international headlines.
What else was happening that month, and in the two years before? Immigrants were leaving the United States of their own accord.
A recent study by the Pew Hispanic Center shows that an influx of immigrants from Mexico to the United States — significant from 1995 to 2000 — began reversing itself after 2005. While our legislators were passing a law that would cause strife within the state, burden taxpayers and remind the world how Alabama treats its minorities, the problem was solving itself.
Immigration was at a 20-year low in 2010.
It is no coincidence that immigrants were already leaving when the Legislature passed the law. While anti-Hispanic sentiment had kept the immigration bill alive in Montgomery for several years, it was panic that got it passed. The economy was crumbling and unemployment was spiking.
Legislators who, in good economic times, recognized the value of Hispanic laborers and entrepreneurs, embraced the bill when the economy went sour. Alabama needed a scapegoat, and it chose undocumented immigrants.
The same unemployment that caused reckless action in the Legislature also convinced immigrants that they could better support their families elsewhere.
The United States needs immigration reform, but the Pew study shows that in its own ugly way, the federal immigration system works. When the U.S. economy is expanding — and desperate for low-wage labor — Mexicans endure the legal risks and prejudices to cross the border, benefiting themselves and U.S. businesses. When the economy shrinks, they leave.
Instead of spending their time looking for ways to amend the law so they can win the next court battle over its constitutionality, legislators should be reexamining whether the tremendous social and financial costs imposed by the law are worth the benefits.
Sometimes we need undocumented immigrants to supplement our work force and sometimes we don’t. The Pew study suggests that market forces, combined with cumbersome federal immigration regulations, accomplish that balance.

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Filed under Alabama politics, immigration, Recession

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