Alabama HB 56: Is This Not What You Expected?

The Hammon-Beason Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act, also known as HB 56, has led to the implementation of new anti-illegal immigrant practices that make life practically impossible for undocumented immigrants in the state of Alabama. The state’s Governor, Robert J. Bentley, signed HB 56 into law on June 9th, 2011 with widespread legislative support. According to the conservative

Courtesy of lndhslf72 / flickr

Federation For American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the law aims to achieve economic benefits for the state, which include (some paraphrasing):

  • Increased job opportunities for currently unemployed and underemployed Alabamians
  • An increase in wages for legal workers, resulting in a decreased dependency on social welfare services and greater tax revenue
  • More local spending rather than remittances, resulting in more production, and tax collections
  • A more stable workforce
  • Less spending on educating the children of illegal aliens, especially on particular English instruction
  • Reduced spending on emergency medical assistance and less competition for those services and limited resources
  • Greater incentives to modernize and mechanize production dependent on exploitation of low-wage laborers

All of these “benefits,” however, come at a greater price, both for undocumented immigrants living and working within the state’s borders and for the state itself. The actual results we see now—a year after its implementation—demonstrate that the law has had an unexpected effect on Alabama’s economy. With the intent “to attack ‘every aspect of an illegal alien’s life,’ and ‘make it difficult for them to live [in Alabama]…’” HB 56 has resulted in a recently articulated concept of “self-deportation,” which Mitt Romney presented as a solution to illegal immigration in a GOP debate earlier this year. The idea is that local authorities make life so miserable and difficult for undocumented immigrants through the simple enforcement of the new law, which allows “police [to] arrest people after traffic stops if they [cannot] prove legal status…[makes] it a crime to rent property to illegal immigrants… and require[s] schools to check students’ citizenship” (Alabama Immigration Law Has Surprise Result).

When the law took effect in October of 2011, a large majority of undocumented immigrants in Alabama fled the state in light of a daunting threat of deportation. This has resulted in a shortage of qualified or interested laborers to fill vacant job positions in agriculture, meatpacking, and other low to middle-skill industries. Consequently, corporations have sought out legal African and Haitian refugees to take these jobs. The problem with this is that they have had to spend large amounts of money (for example, $5 million in the case of Wayne Farms) in order to replace and train new workers. But even then, the worker turnover rate continues to increase as these new workers leave the jobs as well. New demographic shifts in the towns of Alabama are also putting small companies that relied on Hispanic and other undocumented immigrant customers for revenue out of business. These are not necessarily the outcomes outlined above, which the state foresaw when it implemented this anti-illegal immigrant law. This makes me wonder whether or not HB 56 will truly help Alabama reach the economic prosperity for which the state so deeply aspires. What do you predict for the future of Alabama and other states with similar laws in place, such as Arizona and SB 1070?

See also: The Nasty Ripple Effects of Alabama’s Immigration Law

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