State Immigration Laws - Did Texas Sidestep a Landmine?
Several states passed Arizona style anti-immigrant laws this year. Texas did not. Did we sidestep a landmine of unintended consequences? To point, Alabama and Georgia passed laws cracking down on illegal immigrants and employers. These laws are palliative at best because they don't address the root cause of our illegal immigration problem, a wide open and unsecured border. But the worst side of these laws are the unintended consequences, which are currently negatively impacting these two states.
July 1st, Georgia put into law, one of the toughest laws yet to fight illegal immigration. Despite the fact that a federal judge overturned the portion of the law that would require the police to check the immigration status of unidentified suspects (which could be useful in removing the criminal element of the illegal alien population), the portion of the law making it a felony to use false documentation to apply for a job remained in effect.
On the surface that sounds like a great idea, right. But let's look at what has happened since then.
Immigrant farm worker picking blackberries in Georgia. Photo by Vino Wong
In South Georgia, there is a bumper crop of Blackberries standing by to be picked. However, despite the high level of unemployment in our country, Americans are not showing up to apply for the jobs to pick these berries. And, because of the new law in Georgia, the immigrant workers who normally line up for these jobs are staying away.
As a result, $200,000 worth of blackberries will rot in one farmer's field as they remain unpicked. Extrapolate that out to hundreds of farmers across the state and you will find increases in the price of blackberries at your grocery store. Yet another unintended consequence.
I remember screaming at my television when then President George W. Bush said in a State of the Union Address that illegal aliens were doing the jobs that Americans don't want to do. But the more I have learned in my years of studying and working on this issue is, he was right in many cases. There are many jobs in this country that go unfilled if illegal aliens do not take them. Of course, part of the reason they are illegal is because we cancelled programs that used to allow them to come here legally to do these kinds of jobs. This must be fixed.
Similarly, the situation in Alabama, where 7200 homes and businesses were leveled by a massive tornado in April. There is a high demand for construction labor to rebuild these homes. Yet, according to Bloomberg, much of that labor force is disappearing after Alabama's enactment of tough anti-immigrant laws.
In June, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley signed the 72 page document that became one of the newest and strongest immigration laws in the country. The unintended consequence here, Hispanic workers are fleeing Tuscaloosa by the thousands.
According to the Bloomberg report, “Hispanics, documented and undocumented, dominate anything to do with masonry, concrete, framing, roofing, and landscaping,” said Bob McNelly, a contractor with Nash-McCraw Properties, during an interview at a coffee shop near a destroyed gas station and bank.
“There are very few subcontractors I work with that don’t have a Hispanic workforce.”
The city of 90,000 imposed a moratorium on major reconstruction that ends Aug. 8 to enable it to plan its remaking. The rebuilding, McNelly said, will be harder and more expensive without them: “It’s not the pay rate. It’s the fact that they work harder than anyone. It’s the work ethic.”
These kinds of stories are being replicated in every state that has enacted strong anti immigration laws. The unintended consequence is always economic damage to the state. I know this is not going to be a popular article, but it is something we must think about.
Why should we shoot ourselves in the foot when these laws do not address the root cause of the problem - The federal government's failure to secure the border and enact responsible immigration reform.
This year, the Texas House Republican Hispanic Conference introduced a resolution, HCR88, to call on the federal government to do just that. Secure the border and address immigration laws in a responsible fashion that does not allow for amnesty, but recognizes the economic impact of immigrant workers in this country. Wisely, the leadership of the legislature avoided passing harsh anti-immigrant laws that would have caused negative economic impact in Texas.
Our undefined border policy has left a situation of chaos and lawlessness along our southern border. This chaos has caused drug cartels to flourish and has created a new industry of human trafficking and abuse of decent human beings. A virtual war has broken out south of our border because we will not address the issue responsibly. States are scrambling across the country trying to figure out how to solve a massive problem that affects them but they have no real authority to address.
We must send a message to Washington that we want our border secured and we want an end to the broken system of unenforced ineffective immigration laws which must be addressed to ultimately resolve this problem.