While the authors and proponents of state level anti-immigrant legislation received some measure of notoriety initially, one could also predict that there would be a corresponding price to pay for pursuing such costly and divisive immigration measures. Aside from the immediate lawsuits filed in nearly every state that passed Arizona copycats, there are now additional political and fiscal costs that states and supporters of these restrictive laws must pay.
Last Friday, enough signatures were certified to initiate a recall election against Arizona Senate President Russell Pearce this November. Pearce was nationally unknown until authoring Arizona’s SB 1070. While Pearce’s pursuit of this bill has cost Arizona millions in legal fees, lost business and tourism revenue, it now stands to cost him his senate seat. According to the Arizona Republic Arizona, this is “believed to be the first recall election of a state legislator in Arizona history.”
In Georgia, evidence is mounting that the state’s attempt to regulate immigration is backfiring as well. Reports from a variety of news outlets are showing the Georgia’s agriculture business is on the ropes. The growers reportedly don’t have the 11,000 workers they need to harvest their fields. Governor Nathan Deal’s plan to have probationers take to the fields also appears to be backfiring. According to CBS News:
Supporters of Georgia’s new immigration law argued legal workers should be easy to find in a state where the unemployment rate’s almost ten percent. But farmers like Paulk know most Americans want no part of picking blackberries. It’s hot, back-breaking work, for $12 an hour.
This is just the beginning, however. For Alabama, which recently passed the most aggressive copycat requiring local school administrators and clergy to act as immigration cops, the worst is yet to come. With all the mandates already placed on schools and educators, add what the Birmingham News editorial board calls “a massive amount of paperwork” in an environment of “double digit-budget cutbacks.”
School systems and the state Board of Education must generate regular, comprehensive reports to the Legislature, as must the attorney general’s office and the state Department of Homeland Security…Who, in these days of double-digit cutbacks to state agencies and schools, will do all this?
While the fall out in Alabama is yet to be seen, it’s hard to imagine how turning school principals and clergy into immigration agents will have a positive outcome. Birmingham News also reports:
Many church leaders say they will disobey the law because it is unjust. United Methodist Bishop William Willimon, head of the North Alabama Conference, wrote: “We do not check people’s immigration status before inviting them into our church vans and cars. We United Methodist clergy will continue to be in ministry to all people and we call on all United Methodists to do the same.”
While Georgia and Arizona are just beginning to feel the pain, there is no doubt that other states that pushed humane and sensible policies aside for politically expedient and shortsighted legislation will meet similar consequences. Birmingham News said it best: “the Legislature shot itself and the state in the foot. Alabamians, not just illegal immigrants, will pay a steep price.”
Photo by Gage Skidmore.