Dear Alabama,

Dear Alabama,

As a former resident, I have a soft place in my heart for you. I joined my first Cub Scout pack while I was in grade school in Sandusky. I’ve been to the statue of Vulcan and peered over Noccalula Falls. I shook Bear Bryant’s hand when I was in third grade and snuck into the Alabama/Auburn game when I was in college.

So forgive me when I say you’re killing yourself with this Draconian immigration law.

Ever since Arizona decided to take a hard line, Republican legislatures around the country have been chomping at the bits to one-up each other. In Alabama, they passed HB56, which requires proof of legal status for any transaction involving the state. That law turns teachers, doctors, police and the receptionist at the water department into immigration agents.

The results? ¬†Crops are rotting in the fields. Alabama’s economy is shrinking as undocumented workers leave, taking their economic impact to a less repressive state.

“Good!” says the law-and-order hardliners among us. They shouldn’t be here in the first place. The labor problem will eventually work itself out. Besides, now we can put more inmates to work.

As we’ve seen so often, zero tolerance leads to zero common sense. In Tuscaloosa last week a German executive with Mercedes-Benz was arrested for driving while foreign (he’d left his passport back in his hotel and charges have since been dropped).¬†Mercedes Benz opened an auto plant in Vance back in 1993 (once the state finally took the Confederate flag down from the Capitol). This led to Honda, Toyota and Hyundai opening plants in Alabama. These foreign companies are huge sources of employment for the state.

This week, a Japanese man who works for Honda was issued a ticket in Birmingham. He had his passport and a valid drivers license, so it isn’t clear why he was cited. But it made national news anyway. The next time a foreign company wants to set up shop in the states, do you think Alabama is going to make the short list? Do you think other states are courting these companies now?

Less than 2.5 percent of Alabama’s population are undocumented immigrants. That’s about 120,000 people. It costs taxpayers $23,482 to deport one person. Do the math. I’ll wait. In 2010, those same people paid $130 million in income, state and sales taxes. But that’s okay because Alabama’s economy is doing fine, right?

The law-and-order hardliners may not care about breaking up families or disrupting lives, but how do they feel about paying more for the food they eat? What about the local businesses that will go under without the revenue generated by these people? What about the next foreign automaker who is looking for a home in the USA? What about the money you’re going to spend defending this stupid law in court?

As a Tennessean, it is easy just to say “Screw it, It’s Alabama, who cares?” I care because the Tennessee state legislature is controlled by Republicans and they’re already beating themselves over the head to try to out-conservative other states with their voter ID law. An anti-immigration law is coming too and I don’t want my home state to be in the same xenophobic boat as the “Heart of Dixie.”

 

 

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