Alabama’s “Tough” Immigration Law: What’s the Point of a Weak One?

Published on November 15th, 2011

By Joe Guzzardi
October 11, 2011

The states’ rights battle to enforce immigration laws, which the federal government has ignored since the 1965 Immigration Act, has a new hot spot; Alabama has replaced Arizona as the pro-immigration lobby’s favorite target. On October 7, President Obama’s Justice Department urged Atlanta’s 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn an Alabama ruling that allowed most of H.R. 56’s provisions to stand. Included in H.R. 56 are mandatory E-Verify and the right for school administrators to check the immigration status of enrolling students.

News accounts are overwhelmingly sympathetic to Alabama’s illegal aliens. Headlines commonly include “harsh” while stories refer to the bill as “discriminatory” or “racist”.

The bigger story, however, are the unreported facts that support Alabama’s battle to end illegal immigration. First, let’s define the terms. H.R. 56’s intention is to eventually remove aliens—not “immigrants” as they are so commonly referred to—from Alabama. An immigrant enters America through an authorized port of entry holding a legally authorized U.S. visa. Anyone else, like the thousands that H.R. 56 impacts, are aliens and subject to removal.

Between 2000 and 2010, the nation’s immigrant population (legal and illegal) increased 28 percent. But in Alabama, the increase during the same period was 92 percent, nearly three times the national average.

With mass immigration come increased costs to the states. For fiscal 2012, Alabama projects a $1 billion deficit. The state’s fiscal obligations include public education costs including providing expensive English as a Second Language classes. By requiring enrolling pupils to provide proof of legal residency, Alabama protects the collective interests of the many instead of the special interests of the few.

Another negative to increased immigration is that it translates into fewer jobs for Americans. As Alabama U.S. Representative Mo Brooks said last month from the House floor, “There is a surefire way to create jobs now for American citizens: evict all illegal aliens from America and immediately open up millions of jobs for American citizens. That also forces blue collar wages up, helping millions of American families…"

Brooks noted that what critics widely reported as H.B. 56’s “unintended consequences”—self-deportation and declining classroom attendance—are in fact exactly the desired results. Making the obvious point that neither Alabama nor the rest of the nation can endlessly provide for every immigrant who reaches America, Brooks added: “We don’t have the money in America to keep paying for the education of everybody else’s children from around the world. We simply don’t have the financial resources to do that.”

During the last four decades, the nation’s immigrant population has doubled since 1990, nearly tripled since 1980 and quadrupled since 1970 when it stood at 9.7 million. At the same time, the subversive organizations that condemn immigration law enforcement have grown more numerous and more influential. They include the well-funded American Civil Liberties Union, the Anti-Defamation League, the National Council of La Raza and the Southern Poverty Law Center. Supporting them are the Mexican, Dominican and Salvadoran governments as well as other Latin American nations that benefit enormously from keeping the borders open.

Even for those who don’t live in Alabama should be concerned about the ominous significance of Justice Department’s action.

As November 2012 draws closer, the immigration dividing line between the open borders legislators and the more enforcement-minded will become better defined. At stake are the White House and the U.S. Senate both of which seem poised to change dramatically in light of the Obama administration’s defiance of the majority of public opinion that favors less immigration.


Joe Guzzardi has written editorial columns, mostly about immigration and related social issues, since 1986. He is a Senior Writing Fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) and his columns are syndicated in various U.S. newspapers and websites. Contact him at [email protected]

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