Immigration


The challenges to the Alabama Anti-Immigrant law are coming faster that I can blog. Today,

Mexico and 15 other nations filed briefs this afternoon against Alabama’s strict new immigration law, saying it threatened the rights of its citizens and raised “substantial challenges” to the countries’ relationship with the United States.

Ding ding, ding, ding, ding . . . .In this corner, is Latin America . . .

Remember when BamaFactCheck caught Rep. Mickey Hammon, the sponsor of Beason-Hammon, subconsciously erroneously equating Alabama’s Hispanic community’s growth with illegal immigration growth.  Some might say this was just a mistake. Others may say it was a Freudian slip of him thinking all Hispanics are illegal.  Some might say it revealed the true intentions and motives behind the Anti-immigration law: get rid of all Hispanics, illegal or not.

Where the meant to or not, Hispanics are leaving, and not just the “illegal” ones.  As reported in the Montgomery Advertiser.

[Republican Ag. Commissioner] McMillan and Alfa representatives have said that they support secure borders and legislation that makes legal foreign labor available to farmers. They oppose legislation that puts the burden of proof to determine if someone is in the U.S. illegally on the employer.

Now, McMillan said he’s concerned that foreign workers — legal or not — are leaving the state before the law, which opponents have said will lead to racial profiling and harassment of Hispanics, goes into effect.

On recent visits to farms, he said he was told about families of agriculture workers moving because one member is illegal.

“They’re all leaving,” he said, going to states such as Florida and South Carolina that don’t have as stringent immigration laws. “And the timing is critical right now. Our growers are making decisions about ordering strawberry plants for next year. They are weighing spending $30,000 on plants when they don’t know if they’ll have the people to pick the berries.”

Farmers are legitimately concerned:

In Jackson County, Deutscher is worried about next month. That’s when the early varieties of his 55 acres of apples will be ready. He’s already seen farm laborers leaving the area instead of waiting until April 1.

“Right now, my men are on edge about leaving,” Deutscher said about some of the half dozen seasonal workers he hires using E-Verify.

Deutscher welcomes local workers, he said, but hasn’t had a local resident ask for a job in more than 20 years. “And if they did come, they wouldn’t last for more than two hours,” he said about the physically demanding work.

Already Georgia farmers are suffering from the impact of their state’s Arizona-copycat legislation.

Jobs are posted, but no one’s applying

So now, as Georgia’s onions, cucumbers, squash, blackberries, blueberries and watermelons need to be picked, the migrant workers are gone, working in Florida, North Carolina and elsewhere.

“About 75 percent of our farms either don’t have enough workers now, or anticipate not having enough workers when their crops are ready,” Tolar said.

There are about 11,000 unfilled fieldworker jobs, Tolar said, and despite posting the job openings at the state’s labor offices, they remain unfilled. The pay range is about $8 to $12 an hour.

“You can make more money than you would at McDonald’s,” Tolar said. “But McDonald’s is air conditioned, and you can get a cool drink when you want one.”

And you don’t have to pick crops for 12 to 14 hours a day in the summer heat.

“Watermelons are real work,” said the 42-year-old Tolar. “I tried picking blackberries for a day. I couldn’t keep up. The farmer told me it’d be good if I tried another farm down the road.”

Note a few things:

First, note the law is driving away legal workers. These farmers have not been hiring illegals but have been screening their workers through e-verify, already. However, these legal workers, many of them citizens, are now being being driven away by these laws.

Second, what is the consistent testimony of farmers across the state? There is no sufficient local market for this kind of labor at the current wage levels.

Third, if these crops are not harvested, two things will certainly happen: (1) some farms will fail; and (2) basic principles of the supply and demand curve teach that the prices at farmer’s markets, grocery stores, and restaurants will certainly rise because of short supply.

I will ask again, have you, farmers and small business owners, put your Immigration and Employment lawyer on retainer yet. (see here also.) As reported in the Montgomery Advertiser,

To help farmers and other small business owners navigate the new law, Alabama Employers for Immigration Reform, a group that includes construction companies and Alabama Farmers Federation, is holding a series of information sessions around the state.

Topics include the E-Verify system, new hire and previous hire regulations, penalties, “do’s and don’ts” of the new law and I-9 audits. Four law firms are participating in the sessions.

Did these lawyers from these law firms ease the concerns of the attendees? Nope.

[ALFA rep] Higginbotham said employers had a lot of questions about how the new regulations affect their current employees verses any new workers they hire. But there are no blanket answers, he added.

Every person’s business is different,” Higginbotham said. “We are just trying to help them be in compliance.”

Again, you better start looking for an employment law specialist because “there are no blanket answers.”

I wrote earlier today about a new DOJ petition in federal court challenging the constitutionality of the Alabama anti-immigration statute, the third lawsuit filed so far. Or so I thought. Within minutes of my post several tweets and blog posts were referring to the DOJ complaint as the fourth one filed.

I stand corrected. In addition to the DOJ petition, another petition was filed today by church leaders:

Leaders of the Episcopal, Methodist and Roman Catholic churches in Alabama filed a federal lawsuit this morning to stop enforcement of the state’s new immigration law, which they say could strike at the core of their ability to worship.

The lawsuit was filed by: the Rt. Rev. Henry N. Parsley Jr., bishop of the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Alabama; Rev. William H. Willimon, bishop of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church; and the Most Rev. Thomas J. Rodi, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Mobile; and the Most Rev. Robert J. Baker, Roman Catholic Bishop of Birmingham.

According to the lawsuit, “the bishops have reason to fear that administering of religious sacraments, which are central to the Christian faith, to known undocumented persons may be criminalized under this law.”

Throughout the months since its passage, church leaders took the lead in vocal opposition to this bill  (for example, see here, here, here, here, here, here.) It is good for the church not to let the government dictate to whom and how it will minister the gospel.  I am glad these church leaders have joined publicly and now officially in opposition to this law.

Following a complaint brought in US federal court and a separate challenge in the an Alabama Circuit Court, the US Department of Justice has now filed its own constitutional challenge against the Beason-Hammon law. According to the Birmingham Business Journal,

The U.S. Justice Department has filed a legal challenge to Alabama’s new immigration law.

According to the lawsuit, the federal government accuses the state of overstepping its bounds with the new immigration law, which was billed as one of the toughest in the nation.

The lawsuit specifically challenges a number of sections of the Alabama law, including sections creating a criminal sanction for those who provide housing to unlawfully present aliens, criminalizes an unlawfully present alien’s attempt to seek work and penalizes employers who employ or retain unlawfully present aliens.

The suit requests that several sections of the Alabama law be labeled invalid, null and void. It also requests a preliminary and permanent injunction against the state that prohibits the enforcement of those sections.

Speaker Hubbard has already conceded that sections of the law will “probably” be struck down as unconstitutional. We know that every federal judge, both Republican and Democrat, have struck down milder versions of the Alabama statute. So, while the E-verify mandates will stand, I expect that many, if not most, of the provisions will be enjoined from being enforced. In other words, businesses and farmers: you still will need your employment lawyers.

UPDATE: Here is a copy of the Petition.

A few weeks back, Huntsville talk show host, Dale Jackson, tweeted @DaleJackson:

Do Democrats and idiots like @leftinbama really believe that the GOP “stepped in it” on illegal immigration? It is a #alpolitics winner.

He is right, I think; the Anti-Immigrant Bill is a winner in Alabama politics for Republicans.  I really do not see much immediate political gain by opposing the anti-immigration bill. Sometimes though, you must throw out political strategems and advocate for the right. As President John Quincy Adams stated: Always stand on principle . . . even if you stand alone.” Or as Martin Luther King, Jr. expressed in his day:

On some positions, Cowardice asks the question, “Is it safe?” Expediency asks the question, “Is it politic?” And Vanity comes along and asks the question, “Is it popular?” But Conscience asks the question “Is it right?” And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right.

The Republicans will likely not see any electoral blow-back from their passage of Beason-Hammon. At this point in time, the majority of Alabamians probably support a “deport-‘em all” policy. The last polling I saw revealed a visceral hostility towards immigration. I expect that similar polling drove Tim James to run his Gubernatorial ads last year in the gubernatorial primary and then Governor Bentley to follow suit during the run-off campaign.

Those Evangelical “conservatives” which have recently come out against the bill will not punish electorally the Republicans for this. It is so easy to justify the bill: “Well, something had to be done.” The unjustness of this bill will not overcome the decades-long repetition of propaganda about the moral evil of the Democrat Party. For evangelicals, this issue no way trumps abortion and homosexual marriage in priority.

And for the blue collar and rural whites, the “Mexicans are stealing our jobs” mantra is too potent to overcome unfortunately. The James ads were aimed at this audience and we saw how dramatically effective they proved to be.

This is the present reality of the situation in Alabama. Unlike in Arizona where the sponsor of that bill faces a recall election, Hammon, Beason, Hubbard, and Dial will face no electoral consequences to the terribly ineffective, poorly drafted, overly broad and fiscally indefensible piece of legislation. I expect vast portions of the legislation will struck down as unconstitutional with only certain parts standing like the E-verify mandates. (The Republicans will trumpet this as well as a badge of courage like George Wallace did.  Republican strategists will, in fact, use our opposition to the law against us if not expressly then in illicit whisper campaigns.

On top of that, the law will accomplish its purpose. By attacking every area of the undocumented immigrant, they and their documented and/or citizen family members will be driven away as we have already seen in Georgia. As a consequence, Alabama will be weakened as a society culturally, morally, and spiritually. As Martin Luther King, Jr. taught:

There’s another reason why you should love your enemies, and that is because hate distorts the personality of the hater. We usually think of what hate does for the individual hated or the individuals hated or the groups hated. But it is even more tragic, it is even more ruinous and injurious to the individual who hates. You just begin hating somebody, and you will begin to do irrational things. . . . He comes to the point that he becomes a pathological case. For the person who hates, you can stand up and see a person and that person can be beautiful, and you will call them ugly. For the person who hates, the beautiful becomes ugly and the ugly becomes beautiful. For the person who hates, the good becomes bad and the bad becomes good. For the person who hates, the true becomes false and the false becomes true. That’s what hate does. You can’t see right. The symbol of objectivity is lost. Hate destroys the very structure of the personality of the hater. . . . . But long before modern psychology came into being, the world’s greatest psychologist who walked around the hills of Galilee told us to love. He looked at men and said: “Love your enemies; don’t hate anybody.” It,s not enough for us to hate your friends because to “to love your friends” because when you start hating anybody, it destroys the very center of your creative response to life and the universe; so love everybody. Hate at any point is a cancer that gnaws away at the very vital center of your life and your existence. It is like eroding acid that eats away the best and the objective center of your life. So Jesus says love, because hate destroys the hater as well as the hated.

How irrational is this law, yet we don’t see? How blind are we to its consequences

Politically, we need to continually show the fiscal irresponsibility of bill becomes overwhelmingly apparent in all its forms (swelling rolls of immigrant children in foster care, overcrowded local jails with undocumented immigrant, overwhelmed staff at Homeland Security processing e-verify requests for the 91,000 small businesses, loss of tax revenue from immigrant leaving.

We need to identify the cause when local fruit and vegetable prices rise significantly because of unharvested fields, or enough farms go out of business.

We must identify the culprits when enough citizens are disqualified to work due to e-verify errors.

I am afraid that that large segments of Alabamians will not care about its unjustness of the law but they will care of their pocket books.

No matter how impolitic, we must continue to fight against this law; it is a major civil rights issue of our generation.  “As we look out across the years and across the generations, let us develop and move right here. We must discover the power of love, the power, the redemptive power of love. And when we discover that we will be able to make of this old world a new world. We will be able to make men better. Love is the only way. Jesus discovered that.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Alabama Anti-Immigrant Law is having more an impact than its supporter’s rhetoric suggests.

According to the Times-Daily,

Representatives of the Alabama Department of Agriculture, Alabama Farmer’s Federation and other groups that work with growers said some farmers have told them they’ve already lost half their workforce. The state doesn’t have official figures yet, however.

Everyone knew this was going to happen; it had already happened in Georgia. What Beason, Hammon, and Hubbard don’t want to admit is their overly broad and aggresive law is impacting an overly broad category of people.

“We want secure borders and we work to comply with the federal rules,” Cook said. “But this new immigration law is robbing us of the skilled labor we need in the hardest economic times most growers have ever faced.”

One problem in filling horticulture jobs is that they require a high degree of skill that many people don’t have, he said.

The legal people are apparently leaving along with the illegal people because they all want to stay together,” he said.

Why would a “legal” Hispanic-looking person want to stay in Alabama and continually be suspected of being “illegal?”

Proponents of the new law, including the primary sponsor, Rep. Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, said the law should open up jobs for Alabamians as illegal immigrants leave. People who work with the growers disagree.

When they say the unemployment is so high so the workers have got to be out there, they need to come walk a mile in our shoes,” Cook said.

He also debunks the claim that immigrant workers drive down wages or take jobs that U.S. workers could have.

“We’ve tried to do the right thing,” he said. “We hire people that have been through federal screening and they know how to do the job. Don’t take them away from us suddenly now.”

Doug Chapman, Alabama Cooperative Extension System regional agent for horticulture over 10 north Alabama counties, agrees growers aren’t paying workers wages that are below minimum wage.

“I can tell you that all of my growers are concerned,” said Chapman who is based in Athens. “The bottom line is there is no local labor, period. A lot of my growers say they never had a local person come by and apply for a job.”

What Americans see as backbreaking, sweaty, dirty labor, many immigrants see as a ticket out of overwhelming poverty in their home country, he said.

“They don’t want to go back to conditions that are frightening and unbearable at home, but they’re leaving Alabama for states with less restrictive laws,” he said.

Chapman said something is wrong with the system if growers can’t find people to get the job done.

“Some people here would rather sit at home and collect welfare, but these immigrants are eager to work long hard hours for a better life,” he said.

Rev. Lee Shafer, rector at Anniston’s Grace Episcopal Church, demonstrated  some moral consequences to Beason-Hammon, the Alabama Anti-immigration bill.

This bill sent us back 50 years and is entirely inconsistent with the radical Gospel of Christ, a gospel that is good news to the poor and the oppressed. It offers salvation to all and, as we read in Matthew, “rest to the weary.” HB56 is also inconsistent with the radical message of the freedom that is so proudly displayed on the Statue of Liberty, the beacon of hope for all of our very own ancestors.

Decatur Daily outlined a particular misunderstanding by the backers of the Alabama Anti-Immigration legislation.

Legislators who voted for House Bill 56 are trying to downplay the significance of a provision requiring K-12 schools to determine the citizenship of students and their parents. Their argument is that the information schools obtain cannot be used for prosecution or deportation.

They need to read the statute.

The law requires public schools to determine whether each student was born outside the United States and whether the student’s parents are illegal immigrants. It requires each school district to compile “all data” used in making the determination and submit it to the State Board of Education.

Thus, the state will receive individualized information for all students. The state must then prepare a summary report — not including individualized citizenship documents — for the Legislature.

While the law refers to the individual citizenship data as “classified,” it authorizes the state attorney general to permit public disclosure for “a use permitted by federal law.” The only restriction on the attorney general is that the use must be for a purpose outlined in two federal statutes which give broad authority for officials to obtain documents related to immigration enforcement.

Illegal immigrants whose children are U.S. citizens have every reason to be afraid. In order to give their children an education, they must risk deportation.

Who needs to read the statute, Senator Holzclaw? Rep. Williams?

Remember the good ole’ days when the Republicans were so concerned with the Constitutionality of legislation. I guess that rhetoric was limited to campaigns in 2010.

This week, Republican Speaker Mike Hubbard conceded at least part of the law is probably unconstitutional.

“It’s about illegal immigrants, and I have said in the media what part of the word ‘illegal’ do people not understand?” he said. “That’s what it is about. . . “

“Some of the parts of it may be stricken down and we may have to come back and revisit it.”

At another forum, Hubbard said:

“Some parts of that law may be struck down,” Hubbard said. “I hope not, but it may be. We knew going in we would probably have to come in and tweak it.

He did not explain why they passed legislation likely to be declared unconstitutional  subjecting the state to millions in legal fees. For instance, Arizona has expended over $2 million so far. Or why they didn’t narrow the extremity of the legislation, as other Republican Legislatures had done.

But what did he learn from the error of the Legislature? Nothing.

“I’m proud of what we passed. We did it for the right reasons. We have more bills like that coming. We’re just getting started.

These laws violate the Constitution; these laws are illegal enactments. To borrow Hubbard’s own words: “what part of the word ‘illegal’ (or unconstitutional)  do people not get? That’s what it is about.”

These admissions that the law was constitutionally suspect by Hubbard were followed, however, by continued denials by Senator Scott Beason, the sponsor of the bill.

“State Sen. Scott Beason, a sponsor of the immigration law, also defended it, and “said he believed it would stand up to legal challenges, since legislators adopted it with previous court rulings in mind after challenges to similar laws in other states. “Of course, there’s no telling what a judge might do,” Beason said.

“Previous court rulings in mind?” Did they miss the cases in Arizona and Utah? “No telling what a judge might do?” I think we have a pretty good idea what a judge is going to do when seven out of seven other judges have struck laws down that were less extreme than the one passed in Alabama.

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