Costs mounting in state’s immigration debacle (editorial)
HOW LONG can supporters of Alabama’s tough immigration law deny the mounting evidence that says the law is harmful and costly to the state?
The newest proof comes from right here in our back yard. It was the decision by the Association of Departments of Family Medicine to cancel its annual meeting in Mobile for fear that the group’s members might not feel comfortable visiting here.
The conference had been planned for the winter of 2013, but the board voted to call it off last week. In a statement, the organization said it valued making sure that members “can attend our annual meeting without feeling personally threatened or subject to an increased level of monitoring or scrutiny.”
The cost to Mobile will be 500 to 600 hotel nights and related spending, which tourism officials said could have generated an estimated $700,000 for the area.
What’s more, the cancellation is an embarrassment for the state, the city of Mobile and the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, where a department chairman pushed hard to bring the conference to town.
Yet in the state Legislature, many lawmakers remain convinced that Alabama is on the right track and that it should continue its mission to single-handedly fix the nation’s immigration problems.
How naive to believe this is possible. More likely, Alabama’s immigration crusade will serve to benefit the career of the Kansas politician, Kris Kobach, who wrote the law for the state in order to test the political waters.
But it is costing the rest of us dearly — in millions of dollars lost, an image marred and a Legislature distracted. A report by the University of Alabama estimated the damage at $11 billion in economic output and $264.5 million in lost tax revenues.
Supporters of the law, though, say it is beneficial because it encourages the self-deportation of illegal aliens. To be sure, many immigrants have left the state. But in the mix, the law has also scared away legal families whose unique skills sustain the agriculture industry.
And we may be seeing only the tip of the iceberg. Who knows how many economic development prospects have been discouraged, as they watched international executives from Mercedes-Benz and Honda face harassment at the hands of authorities?
Alabama — and Mobile — have worked hard to be seen as attractive destinations for visitors and corporations to have it all thrown away because of political grandstanding on this national issue.
The immigration law has been nothing but trouble since it was approved by the state Legislature last year. Here in this state, we have big problems to solve — budget woes, high poverty, troubled schools — but we can’t solve them with this increasingly heavy burden on our backs
By: Press-Register Editorial Board/Mobile Alabama