Guest Commentary 

Alabama's new immigration law will have many consequences—mostly damaging ones

Alabama may have the toughest immigration law on the books, but the crops are rotting; the classrooms are empty; and the state is bound to lose out on significant sales-tax revenues from the undocumented immigrants who have fled to other states.

Attrition through enforcement has its unintended consequences.

In Ryn Gargulinski's Oct. 6 opinion piece, she concluded that Alabama's law teaches Arizona a lesson on how to act tough on immigration. Perhaps that is the case, but there are a few reasons why citizens of both states need to be wary of the collateral damage that will likely result from the law.

The Alabama law has several provisions that are unconstitutional, because they interfere with federal authority over immigration matters and are in direct violation of the Supremacy Clause. This is why the Department of Justice has opted to sue both Arizona and Alabama. Our immigration system is broken, but these attempts by the states are no substitute for comprehensive federal action.

Over the past several months, the Department of Homeland Security and the Obama administration have attempted to focus their limited resources on the criminal population, rather than chasing after construction workers, roofers, tomato-pickers and dishwashers. In fact, laws such as HB 56 and SB 1070 will ultimately divert these limited resources back to enforcement against the non-criminal population.

The money that Ms. Gargulinski thinks we would save on prisons will actually go directly to more incarceration, more court proceedings, more appeals and more burdens on the American taxpayer.

So what is going to happen in Alabama now that they have gotten tough on immigration? We are already catching a glimpse.

Farmers and growers are already reporting that their migrant workers are fleeing their jobs by the thousands. Tomatoes are rotting on the vine while farmers struggle to find any American workers who, in spite of a 10 percent unemployment rate, want to endure the grueling work conditions and long shifts. Blueberries and squash crops are facing a similar fate. Some farmers are predicting that the losses to their business will cripple them to the point of no return. The agriculture industry stands to lose millions in revenue.

How can there be a labor shortage with a 10 percent unemployment rate? Shouldn't those out-of-work Americans be fighting for those jobs?

If the produce is ever harvested in Alabama, food prices will undoubtedly increase as the growers and farmers will need to incur additional costs. The average consumer, who is already hurting in the pocketbook, will ultimately pay more for fruits and vegetables.

But, hey, at least Alabama schools won't be full of undocumented students who aspire to someday go to college or join the U.S. Armed Forces.

In a fantastic message to undocumented children regarding the importance of education, the Alabama law also requires that all schools verify the immigration status of children enrolling for the first time. This provision contradicts a U.S. Supreme Court precedent, Plyler v. Doe, which held that children have a constitutional right to attend U.S. public school from K-12, regardless of their immigration status. It places educators in a position of becoming law-enforcers. This is hardly a lesson for Arizona, which has a longstanding record of failing in education.

Alabama, which according to the Tax Foundation has the sixth-highest combined sales-tax rate in the nation at 8.64 percent, is going to lose out on significant tax revenue that was cycled back through the system by the undocumented population. Believe it or not, people shop and go out to eat regardless of their immigration status. Less tax revenue will have a long-term impact on the state's economy. By the way, Arizona has the second-highest combined sales-tax rate at 9.12 percent and relies heavily on this tax revenue.

This law, while the toughest in the nation, is nothing to emulate. I predict that a year from now, Alabamans will regret that they ever tried to outdo Arizona.

If I'm wrong, Ms. Gargulinski has permission to throw those rotten Alabama tomatoes at me.

More by Maurice Goldman

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