Alabama’s new anti-immigrant law, signed last week by Gov. Robert Bentley, will set back years of civil rights progress in the state and have devastating economic consequences.
This unconstitutional law, the harshest such law to be enacted by any state, has been referred to by its sponsors as “the Arizona law with an Alabama twist.”
But in addition to the main elements of Arizona’s widely derided S.B. 1070, which encourages racial profiling, this new law places innocent children in the crosshairs. Every public school will be forced to determine, at the time of enrollment, whether a student is an undocumented immigrant or the child of an undocumented immigrant. Even though the law itself won’t block children from attending public school, the prospect of this schoolhouse inquisition will have a chilling effect on immigrant children enrolling in school.
This misguided law also carries a huge price tag, which will be borne by taxpayers and consumers. For example, while the state is grappling with a difficult economy and legislators are touting fiscal responsibility, the law will add substantial new costs for law enforcement agencies – costs that have nothing to do with protecting Alabama residents from crime. Plus, it allows citizens to sue agencies they believe are not adequately enforcing the law, potentially leading to millions more in litigation costs.
There are other costs as well. Labor shortages caused by Georgia’s recently enacted anti-immigrant law are expected to cost that state’s agriculture industry $300 million. Alabama industries dependent on immigrant labor will likely suffer the same fate. Farmers, small businesses and consumers will bear the brunt.
Millions more in tax revenue will be lost. Alabama businesses will lose sales as immigrants – undocumented or not – decide to leave rather than face the prospect of racial profiling and harassment. Economic development efforts, which in recent years have lured foreign businesses and thousands of jobs to Alabama, will also be stunted as the state’s past reputation for racial intolerance is revived across the country.
This law, which undermines our core American values of fairness and equality, will not go unchallenged. SPLC will fight this unconstitutional and racist law to protect the civil rights of every Alabamian.