Report Shows Steep Costs of Alabama’s Immigration Law
February 07, 2012
Samford University Leads Call for Rational Immigration Debate, Religious, Agricultural Leaders Voice Concerns
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Birmingham, Ala. — As Alabama’s 2012 legislative session kicked off today, the costs associated with the state’s 2011 immigration law, HB56, continued to come to light. On a press call today, the author of a recent cost-benefit analysis of the law joined a Birmingham pastor and a member of the American Nursery and Landscape Association to discuss the law’s costs, as well as two upcoming events at Samford University in Birmingham that will engage participants in values-based discussion regarding immigration reform.
On Feb. 9 and 10, the Birmingham Area Consortium for Higher Education (BACHE) is co-convening a public forum with Samford University on the impact of Alabama’s immigration law, HB56. On February 23, Samford University will host the upcoming G92 South Immigration Conference, a gathering of evangelical leaders, students and pastors to promote a rational and biblical conversation on immigration.
Fred Shepherd, chairman of the political science department at Samford, is the co-director of this week’s forum. He also noted that the list of notable speakers at the G92 conference includes Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. Shepherd said, “There is really a general ferment in the state for reassessing and questioning a law that has affected everyday lives in a lot of significant ways, whether in minor inconveniences experienced by the population in general or in more wrenching dislocations suffered by immigrants of a wide variety of legal and ethnic backgrounds. We feel this ferment especially on campuses and in faith-based communities.” The forum and the G92 South Immigration Conference, Shepherd added, will “provide a nexus of sorts for university- and faith-based communities as they attempt to come to grips with what people of charity and good conscience … should do in the face of laws that both raise questions of justice and fairness.”
Samuel Addy, Ph.D., Director and Research Economist at the University of Alabama’s Center for Business and Economic Research, discussed his analysis, including findings that the law has cost the state 70,000 to 140,000 jobs and will cost the state between $2.3 billion and $10.8 billion annually in GDP. Addy also found that the law would cost Alabama and its localities tens to hundreds of millions of dollars in lost tax revenue. Addy said, ““If we are revisiting this law—and I would encourage that—the question is, are the benefits of this new immigration law worth the costs?” Four potential benefits cited in the law are not guaranteed, he added, and even if they were, the costs will exceed them: “There is a net cost to the state.”
The Rev. Ron Higey, pastor at the Birmingham International Church, pointed out that the law has had a negative effect on congregations in Alabama. Higey posed three questions: “Is this a just law? Is it a merciful law? Is it a law that has been crafted with humility? From my perspective, I find the Alabama immigration law lacking on all three areas. … I personally find that this is a failing law and needs to be completely reworked.”
“We’re paying a high price in terms of the damage that is being done to human beings, whether they’re here legally or not, that we have to talk about,” he added. “And I don’t see those discussions at the governmental level going on in a constructive fashion.”
Dr. Marvin Miller of the American Nursery and Landscape Association noted that the law’s full effects lie ahead for the agriculture industry. “So much of agriculture is a seasonal issue, so I don’t think we’ve experienced anywhere near the full effect in the few months that we’ve had since the law went into effect,” Miller said. “What we are seeing now is businesses that are not planting to their potential because they don’t have the labor and because they’re not sure they’ve got the market that they once had.”
“Ultimately what we need is to have the issue of immigration reform settled on the national level,” Miller added. “When you have a state as an ‘island’ passing certain immigration laws, very often what happens is the surrounding states become the beneficiaries when people leave. And if we had a uniform law across the country, that would solve a lot of the issues that any one state may be facing.”
For more information on the G92 South Immigration Conference, please visit: www.g92conference.org
To read the full University of Alabama study, “A Cost-Benefit Analysis of the New Alabama Immigration Law,” please visit: http://tinyurl.com/7j27wtc.