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Immigration Laws Push Alabama Deeper into Poverty

Alabama’s immigration law HB 56 doesn't just affect the human rights of immigrants; it also puts the state in an economic situation that could sink it even further into poverty.

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Sweeney said that Alabama had every right to address the problem of immigration, but also said the law still has to be raised as an issue of concern for his customers, and "it is something that we will take into account" on future projects. The law is considered "the toughest in the nation" when it comes to illegal immigration. But since HB 56 took effect in September, it has had a series of unintended consequences. Among the most harmful of these, according to Sweeney, is the damage the law has done to the image of Alabama. "There is nothing good about it," he said.

Sweeney said companies decide where to locate plants based on a variety of factors, including labor costs, land availability, transportation, utilities and rates. But so-called "soft" elements also come into play, such as quality of life, business climate, schools and atmosphere. "Everything matters," he said. "It could come into play when you’re trying to make a final decision or it could eliminate a location from the beginning, because a manager says he does not want to put it on the list.” 

The harsh reality of Alabama, Sweeney said, is that the law could cause businesses to reject the state without ever giving it a first look. "The fear is, that you may be losing prospects you don’t even know," he said. "I'm sure that will be a problem."

You don’t need to be a great economist to understand the damage that a hasty decision by a few people has inflicted on many. Legislators, perhaps for lack of time, did not do a thorough analysis of the implications that a law like HB 56 could have. There is still room to correct errors, but we must also recognize that the damage has already been done and it will take time to recover the image of what once was our "Alabama the Beautiful."

Jairo Vargas is editor of Latino News in Trussville, Ala.

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