Alabama’s Dangerous Crackdown on Undocumented Workers

You might’ve read about the unintended consequences of Georgia’s crackdown on undocumented workers. Well, the same thing is about to happen in Alabama. A few weeks after Governor Bentley’s signing of a bill that will attack undocumented workers, Hispanic immigrants are already fleeing the state. The Alabama law is one of the harshest in the recent spate of anti-worker and anti-business legislation. It criminalizes assisting undocumented workers and imposes harsh penalties on businesses employing them. Businesses will be forced to use the intrusive and wasteful E-Verify system, putting immigration enforcement costs on entrepreneurs. It makes all public officials into immigration agents too by requiring them to constantly enforce the law. More disturbingly, it allows for the arrest of individuals suspected of being in the country illegally, effectively making Alabamians guilty until proven innocent.

Practically, the law is just as stupid as Georgia’s. After tornadoes swept through the state, devastating large areas, including the city of Tuscaloosa, you’d think rebuilding would be a priority. But apparrently not if cheap, skilled, undocumented workers are doing the rebuilding. Contractors are predicting labor shortages, which will drive up the price of reconstruction. In a state that already suffers from tornadoes and hurricanes, making it more expensive to live in Alabama doesn’t sound like the brightest idea.

But one of the bill’s sponsors, Senator Scott Beason, thinks it does. “This will put thousands of Alabamians back in the workforce.”

The real effect of Beason’s protectionist fallacy will be to keep displaced Alabamians in temporary homes. It will ensure that five years from now lots in Tuscaloosa will still be filled with the rubble of April’s tornado. It will make it harder on workers, businesses, and families in Alabama to prosper. He’s not just making an economic error: he’s undermining Alabama’s future.

Fortunately, the law’s likely to be restrained by the courts. Similar policies have already been challenged and defeated in four other states. Hopefully Alabamians will be spared the worst of their government’s poorly-conceived plan.