The Immigration Shell Game

The Federal Government is failing us on every front. Time and time again they fail to fulfill the tasks required of them under the law. They haven’t passed a budget in years. They can’t seem to figure out a way to pass spending bills to fund the government for more than a few months at a time. They are allowing our roads and bridges to crumble under us. And while they talk a good fight on the issue of immigration, they have done absolutely nothing to resolve that crisis.

As a result, savvy state politicians have hijacked the issue. Make no mistake about it; the fervor over restrictive immigration policy at the state level has nothing to do with addressing immigration, freeing up jobs for Americans or fighting crime. What it is, and has always been, is a method to ensure retention of their political power in the face of changing local demographics.

In prior eras, the citizenry often benefited from anti-immigration movements. Given today’s socioeconomic realities, the laws born of this movement have had the opposite effect. Take the case of Arizona for example. Their anti-immigration law was sold to the citizens of that state as merely a bill aimed at identifying, prosecuting and deporting illegal immigrants. In reality, it was an attempt by state legislators to keep their seats in the State House by rolling back the Hispanic population they feared would elect fellow Hispanics to replace them.

Politically, passage of the law has been a great success as more than 400,000 Hispanic residents, a large number of them being legal residents or U.S. citizens, have reportedly abandoned the state. Economically, the law has been a nightmare. Enactment of the state’s anti-immigration bill sparked a successful wave of boycotts that have been documented as costing the hospitality industry alone over $150 million in cancelled convention and hotel reservations. The losses affecting retail, restaurants, tourism, real estate and the rest of Arizona’s economy are so bad the state Chamber of Commerce and several of the largest employers in the state publicly cried “uncle” by publishing a letter that declared:

“Last year, boycotts were called against our state’s business community, adversely impacting our already struggling economy and costing us jobs. Arizona-based businesses saw contracts cancelled or were turned away from bidding … Sales outside of the state declined… It is an undeniable fact that each of our companies and our employees were impacted by the boycotts and the coincident negative image.”

Despite Arizona’s folly with anti-immigration legislation, other state legislatures continue to pass laws targeting the Hispanic communities in their states. Georgia’s new law is the perfect case study to support employer claims that there are jobs Americans just won’t do. Employers have made this claim for years and have been vocally attacked by those who swore illegal aliens were taking jobs from Americans and if the illegals were forced out Americans would fall over themselves to fill those jobs.

Even before it went into effect, Georgia’s law was crippling the state’s agriculture and food service industries. Apparently, migrant workers have been avoiding Georgia and going to nearby states such as North Carolina and Florida where they will not have to suffer the indignities which Georgia holds for them.

It turns out the employers are right. Americans simply won’t take some jobs. All attempts to offset the loss of workers resulting from migrants avoiding their state have failed miserably. It was incorrectly assumed that the unemployed would jump at the chance to fill agricultural job openings. Yes, to be eligible to collect an unemployment check, a person needs to look for a job. They also need to accept work when it is offered to them. But the job needs to be “suitable.” Consequently, a laid off factory worker, schoolteacher, construction worker, etc., doesn’t have to accept a job picking crops.

Then someone had the great idea of getting convicts released on probation to do the work. That didn’t work either, as most of them who took picker jobs quit almost immediately. Turns out, in America, even convicts on probation are not required to accept jobs that necessitate backbreaking work for nine dollars an hour.

As a result of the new Georgia law, farmers are facing exactly the situation that Ronald Reagan said should not be allowed to happen — crops rotting in the field because there are no workers to pick them.

The agricultural labor shortage will assuredly drive up food costs, especially for peaches, onions and chicken, which Georgia had historically produced in abundance. There is also anecdotal evidence that states’ new immigration policies are forcing farmers to abandon labor-intensive crops such as blackberries for those that are mechanized like wheat and corn. Adding insult to injury, crops like lettuce and avocados will be increasingly sourced not from U.S. producers but from Mexico. The politically motivated labor shortage could result in as much as $9 billion in lost farm production annually— in addition to significantly higher prices for consumers, when they can find produce on the shelves.

In Alabama, there is already disillusionment among the citizenry over that state’s new anti-immigration law — to the point individuals are posting scathing comments about the new law on their personal Facebook pages!

The police are now required to demand proof of legal status from anyone who seems foreign. School administrators are required to ask children about their immigration status and that of their parents. People and businesses—including utilities companies—are encouraged not to enter into contracts with anyone who cannot prove their legal status.

Thanks to the politicians’ efforts to retain their power at all costs, Alabama’s anti-immigrant law will force already cash-strapped police, sheriff and other law enforcement agencies to cut services benefiting its citizens. The cost of training officers on the new law, detaining suspected illegals and legal fees from lawsuits associated with improper detention will certainly restrict law enforcement’s ability to protect and serve Alabama’s communities.

In just one jurisdiction, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s office has already been forced to cut 20% of this year’s budget (roughly $3 million). Consequently, 145 deputy positions are being eliminated and safety services such as dispatching deputies to the site of vehicle wrecks and collisions are being scaled back.

According to the Pew Hispanic and Immigration Policy organizations, forcing illegals from Alabama will negatively impact the state’s budget. While illegals represent less than 3% of the state’s population, they paid well over $125 million in state and local taxes. Americans for Immigration Reform reports that Alabama could lose $2.6 billion in economic activity, $1.1 billion in gross state product, and approximately 17,819 jobs if all the illegals choose to leave the state.

Perhaps the most nefarious result of the country’s coordinated attack on the Hispanic community— sorry, immigration reform — is the intentional consequence that legal Hispanics will face. All the various state anti-immigration laws feature police ability to “investigate” and detain those who would appear not to belong in this country. They will ask the foreign-looking individual to produce documents that show it is okay for them to be in “our” country.

On the surface that may not sound like such a bad thing. Unfortunately, what non-Hispanics fail to consider is that citizens of this country are not required to carry identification of any kind, let alone documentation that proves you are a citizen and therefore allowed to be here. Consequently, a U.S. citizen of Hispanic decent, whether naturalized the day before and speaking with a heavy accent or born in this country and speaking perfect English, has the absolute right to be in public without any documentation whatsoever. However, to the law enforcement officer stopping them, they are just another Hispanic without documents and subject to detention…which is just a fancy political word for arrested.

Those U.S. citizens of Hispanic decent now find themselves unjustly sitting in a jail, denied a phone call since they are presumed illegal and not entitled to a call, and perhaps deported merely because the judicial system is too overloaded to check out their story and go by the house they bought and have lived in for the last 10 years and ask someone there to show them the detained person’s documents. Sound ridiculous? Well, it has already happened several times.

Like it or not, illegals contribute to the American economy and workforce in significant ways. Passing anti-immigration laws for the sake of a few politicians keeping their power for a few extra years, resulting in yet another loss of our collective right to privacy and further curtailment of individual freedoms in the post 9-11 U.S., does not seem like an equitable bargain for those of us not holding elective office.

It would also not appear to be a thoughtful economic plan for a country teetering on the verge of yet another recession to pass policies that will assuredly require tax hikes for those who are left behind to make up shortfalls in state and local budgets caused by the loss of Hispanic contributions.

The citizens of this country can no longer afford to allow the quest of a few state politicians seeking to hold on to their power to scapegoat the Hispanic community. They are not the reason we have more people living in poverty than ever before. They are not the reason state budgets are in the red. That is largely the fault of a dysfunctional Federal Government. If you want to solve your problems by throwing some out, leave the Hispanics alone and throw out a member of Congress.

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