From The Press-Register (of Mobile, AL):
John McMillan, Alabama’s agriculture commissioner, says “there’s no question we overreached,” with the state’s tough new anti-immigration law. (The Huntsville Times/Michael Mercier)
By George Talbot
Its official title is the Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act, but the state’s controversial new regulations cracking down on illegal immigration might be better known as the law of unintended consequences.
The act, approved by the Legislature in June, is touted by its Republican sponsors as the toughest anti-illegal immigration law in the country. But while winning praise from conservative voters — some, in fact, have complained that the law doesn’t go far enough — it’s drawn a backlash of criticism by everyone from poultry farmers and police chiefs to bank executives and Baptist ministers.
Led by Gov. Robert Bentley, who campaigned on a platform that included an Arizona-style immigration law, the Legislature sought to address the state’s growing number of undocumented workers.
That population, lawmakers said, was contributing to Alabama’s high rate of unemployment, depressing wages for workers and raising the state’s costs for health care, education and other social services.
But while the law is aimed at illegal aliens, plenty of others are caught in the crossfire.
“There’s no question we over-reached,” said Alabama Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan. “I don’t have any hard statistics, but the evidence clearly points to a remarkable drop in day laborers throughout Alabama.”
McMillan, a Republican and former state representative from Stockton, said he got an up-close view of the problem as he visited with farmers in Escambia County on Tuesday.
Produce, he said, is going unpicked, and a bumper crop of peanuts could be lost to rot if new workers aren’t found in a hurry.
McMillan, who holds an economics degree from Rhodes College, said he supports efforts to tighten U.S. borders, but that the new immigration law will come at a price.
“The fact is, if you eat a fruit, a vegetable or a piece of chicken, an immigrant probably touched it before it got to your plate,” he said. “So it doesn’t take an economist to figure that this is going to have a major impact on consumers.”
The irony is that the labor crisis is coming at a time when Alabama faces a steep unemployment rate of 10 percent. That’s led to the stark realization that Alabama, where generations prized the virtue of a hard day’s labor, has lost its blue collar ethic. (more…)
Filed under: Arizona-copycat laws, Deportation, immigrant community, Migrant Workers | Tagged: Alabama, Alabama Department of Agriculture, Bryan Taylor, Gov. Robert Bentley, John McMillan, Keivan Deravi, litigation | 1 Comment »