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2 Big Lies About Immigration Disproved in One Alabama Town

Alabama's governor prides himself on the country's harshest anti-immigrant law, but his state is flourishing in part because of immigrants' hard work.

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Here, then, is what one will find when examining the “crisis” that led Alabama to pass the nation’s most inhumane immigration legislation. In Russellville—perhaps the single place most affected by immigrants in the entire state—new arrivals have filled open jobs, devoted themselves to education, opened new businesses and replaced a dwindling population. They might have labored for years in Florida, but Russellville is where these immigrants are choosing to lay down their roots. They appreciate the slow pace of life, the religiosity, the affordable housing, the educational opportunities for their children. For them, Russellville has a lot to offer; they have proven that they also have plenty to offer Russellville.

This is not to say that Alabama isn’t without its fair share of problems, many of which find their reflection in Russellville. Alabama is a poor state, with too many people stuck in dead-end jobs, while massive tax breaks are given to the very creators of those jobs. Too often, the only way up is out. It remains to be seen what the children of immigrants will do after graduating high school and college—whether they’ll leave it behind like many have before them or return to help bring more opportunities to the area.

But one thing is clear: Alabama’s problems won’t be solved by cracking down on immigrants. Take immigrants out of a town like Russellville and such problems don’t go away, they get worse. Without immigrants, Russellville would turn into an aging ghost town. Storefronts in the business district would shutter. Companies would go out of business. Schools would lose children eager to learn and parents eager to assist. Russellville would become a shell of itself: less dynamic, less bustling, less entrepreneurial, less diverse. The same could be said, of course, of the country as a whole. 

Gabriel Thompson is currently working on a biography of legendary community organizer Fred Ross. He is the author of Working in the Shadows: A Year of Doing the Jobs (Most) Americans Won’t Do, just released in paperback from Nation Books.

 
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