Friday, December 9, 2011

Alabama Immigration Law Sinking State Lower

Latino News, Op-ed, Jairo Vargas, Translated by Elena Shore

TRUSSVILLE, Ala. — The circumstances surrounding Alabama’s immigration law HB 56 don’t just affect the human rights of immigrants, as we’ve written in various editorials; they also put the state in an economic situation that could sink it even further into poverty. Alabama already ranks among the poorest states in the nation.
As Britton Bonner, chair of the South Baldwin County Chamber of Commerce, said, “The law needs to help businesses do business, and to the extent that it doesn’t help businesses do business, it’s not good. At this point, I’m not sure that it’s helping any.”

According to recent U.S. Census data, one in four children in Alabama is living in poverty. In 2010, 27.4 percent of Alabama children under 18 lived in poverty. The percentage in 2007 was 23.4 percent. The situation hasn’t improved; on the contrary, things are getting worse for the state’s poor. The 2010 figure is high even for a state that has been poor historically.

The economic situation has forced new families below the poverty line. It leaves us to ask: How many more families will enter these sad statistics as a result of HB 56? 2011 hasn’t been a good year for many, and it has been even worse for Hispanic businesses that have had to do without their labor force as a result of a decline in revenue due to a substantial drop in sales.

You don’t have to be an expert in economics to know that the loss resulting from HB 56 – in both Hispanic businesses and the American businesses that work with Latinos -- will cause a shortage in income tax revenue and – contrary to its intended purpose -- an increase in unemployment. This isn’t because there aren’t Americans who want these jobs, but because there are no longer businesses to hire them. Many businesses have had to close down because of a drop in customers, or the owners are now doing the work that employees once did.

While Alabama struggles to get out of its low economic ranking, laws like HB 56 are further sinking the state’s economy and presenting a grim picture for all who live here. Families who have not traditionally been poor are now joining this group.

Alabama’s immigration law has already started to affect foreign companies. The recent arrest of a senior executive for Mercedes Benz and, more recently, the ticketing of a Toyota employee, are clear examples of the difference of the state climate before and after HB 56.

Another case took place in October at the Gulf Shore National Shrimp Festival, where several Canadian suppliers who had worked in past years without a problem, could not participate this year as a result of HB 56. Under the new law, they weren’t able to be issued licenses because they weren’t citizens or permanent residents of the state.

Some companies, like the Golden Dragon Precise Copper Tube Group, which had announced the construction of a $100 million plant in Tomasville that would have employed more than 500 workers, are putting their expansion plans on hold because of the new law. The message of Alabama’s new immigration law is to discourage foreign companies from investing in the state.

Let's see what one of the nation's leading consulants has to say. Mark Sweeney, senior principal of the firm McCallum Sweeney, advises world-famous companies on where to invest, listing among his clients Boeing, Caterpillar, Navistar, Mercedes Benz, Michelin and Shell. Companies call his firm when they are looking for a place to build a U.S. manufacturing plant, and his job is to help them identify locations to invest their capital. His firm is one of the world's most well-known site selection consultants.

Sweeney said that Alabama had every right to address the problem of immigration, but also said the law still has to be raised as an issue of concern for his customers, and "it is something that we will take into account" on future projects. The law is considered "the toughest in the nation" when it comes to illegal immigration. But since HB 56 took effect in September, it has had a series of unintended consequences. Among the most harmful of these, according to Sweeney, is the damage the law has done to the image of Alabama. "There is nothing good about it," he said.

Sweeney said companies decide where to locate plants based on a variety of factors, including labor costs, land availability, transportation, utilities and rates. But so-called "soft" elements also come into play, such as quality of life, business climate, schools and atmosphere. "Everything matters," he said. "It could come into play when you’re trying to make a final decision or it could eliminate a location from the beginning, because a manager says he does not want to put it on the list.”

The harsh reality of Alabama, Sweeney said, is that the law could cause businesses to reject the state without ever giving it a first look. "The fear is, that you may be losing prospects you don’t even know," he said. "I'm sure that will be a problem."

You don’t need to be a great economist to understand the damage that a hasty decision by a few people has inflicted on many. Legislators, perhaps for lack of time, did not do a thorough analysis of the implications that a law like HB 56 could have. There is still room to correct errors, but we must also recognize that the damage has already been done and it will take time to recover the image of what once was our "Alabama the Beautiful."

Jairo Vargas is editor of Latino News in Trussville, Ala.


  1. There was a "secret" meeting or "conference" of the U. S. Supreme Court on past Friday, December 9 - It is possible that a Certiorari was granted to SB 1070 and that will be announced on Next Monday, December 12 at 10 AM - Why that would not be wise !

    Nobody knows for sure if a Certiorari was granted on past Friday to the case "Arizona v. United States" that is "Papers Please" or SB 1070.

    What is a Certiorari ??

    A Certiorari is a writ from a higher court to a lower one requesting a transcript of the proceedings of a case for review.

    The Supreme Court would require the lower court that is called "Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals" in San Francisco to produce the Injunction or Stay against certain provisions of SB 1070.

    It would be wiser for the Supreme Court to wait for more jurisprudence produced in the different Circuits, because there are many suits, amicus briefs, oral discussions, etc in these courts relative to similar cases in Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and others.

    These courts have highly respected judges with a great baggage or load of knowledge and study in the History of American Law and many court decisions of the past ( Consuetudinary Law or Custom ) and great knowledge of U. S. Congress Laws ( Statutory Law or Written Laws ).

    The Wisdom and Knowledge of these Great Judges of the Circuits ( Lower Courts ) should not be despised.

    The U. S. Supreme Court should not be a replacement for the U. S. Congress when there is a Political Gridlock and Congress is divided as in the present time. It is wise to wait for a new U. S. Congress.

    And besides that there are many political developments : Russell Pearce, the author of SB 1070 was ousted in a recall election and Jan Brewer, Governor or Arizona is losing power and popularity. The Arizona Supreme Court is in Great Contradiction and Conflict with that Governor.

    There is Great Opposition to SB 1070 in Arizona on the part of Mayors of very important cities, some city councils are opposed to it, as well as many county commissioners, and most important many Arizona sheriffs and Police Chiefs decry this law, Arizona business opposes this law and the community is divided.

    All this produces political and economic developments that should not be ignored in a final decision about SB 1070.

    This could drag for years and that is for the better of the American nation. !


  2. SB 1070 : Business loves "Federal Preemption" and doesn't like "State Rights" creating regulations and obstacles for them, the Chamber of Commerce too, of course. "Federal Preemption" means less legal actions from states and people against business

    "Federal Preemption" means the superiority of the Federal Government over the whims of the states and the supremacy of Congress Law over State Law. That is why Business prefers decisions at the Federal level and not a Hodge-Podge, that is a "mess" or a "jumble" of State Laws and Regulations.

    So you see, what the Supreme Court decides in the Case of Arizona v United States, "papers please" or SB 1070 is of enormous interest for Business and sooner or later they are going to feel the glory or the pain.

    As far as I understand Business in Arizona is not very happy with Governor Jan Brewer. And not only Business but many Civic Associations, Sheriffs, Police Chiefs, City Mayors, Councilors, County Commissioners, Legal Groups and Lawyers don't love the actions of that Lady.

    You can tell me that Jurisprudence is an abstract science and that these economic and political considerations have no weight.

    May be you are right, but at the end, Business, Money, Civic Associations, Legal Professionals, Professors, Civil Rights Activists etc .... will find a way of being heard. And big political and electoral movements may ensue against this ugly patchwork of legislations by 50 states.