"Alabama’s harsh immigration law
has stirred controversy since it went into effect in September. The
statute, which among other things requires police to question people
they suspect of being in the U.S. illegally, has prompted thousands of
immigrants to flee the state. The law’s backers believed out-of-work
Alabamians would snap up the jobs those immigrants once held.
It hasn’t turned out that way. A new study details the economic
impact of harsh immigration laws such as those passed by Alabama and five other states.
Published by the Center for Business & Economic Research at the
University of Alabama, it’s the first economic cost-benefit analysis (PDF)
of the state’s immigration statute. Dr. Samuel Addy, an economist and
director of the Center, found that the law, known as HB 56, will
annually shrink Alabama’s economy by at least $2.3 billion and will cost
the state not less than 70,000 jobs .
Most of the damage will come from reduced demand for goods and
services provided by Alabama businesses patronized by immigrants. Addy
projects that 40,000 to 80,000 immigrants will vacate their jobs. (It’s
not possible to know exactly how many will leave; his calculation is
derived, he says, from a combination of state labor-force data and data
from the Pew Center on the States.) Those positions support other jobs,
leading to a net employment loss of 70,000 to 140,000. As a result, Addy
estimates, the state’s gross domestic product will decline by $2.3
billion to $10.8 billion for every year the law is in effect and will
cost $56.7 million to $264.5 million in tax revenue.
“The economy can still grow, but it will be on a lower growth path
than would have been the case without the law,” Addy concludes.
Many Alabamans have rejected hard, dirty, low-paying jobs
that immigrants once performed: picking tomatoes, working in chicken
plants, and gutting catfish. Now employers struggle to fill those
positions. Despite the state’s 8.1 percent jobless rate, the four job
categories that once hired most of the state’s immigrants—agriculture,
construction, food service, and hospitality—employ fewer people than
they did before the law went into effect." - Elizabeth Dwoskin, Bloomberg Businessweek, Feb. 14, 2012.