The Potential Costs Outweigh the Means of HB56, the New Alabama Immigration Law


           During the 2011 legislative session, HB56, the Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act, was passed and set in place in Alabama. A recent study done by The University of Alabama, shows that although some benefits may be achieved by the new immigration law that Alabama is trying to pass, the costs are numerous and pricey. Due to the fact that economies are driven on demand, by decreasing the number of people that push the demand, you will, in turn, will hurt the economy. The state of Alabama does stand to allegedly benefit from the funds that would be saved by the eliminated cost of providing public benefits to illegal immigrants, the betterment of safety that is supposedly hindered by them, and the potential added employment and educational openings. All of these benefits, however, are seriously debatable and immeasurable at this point in time.

            The idea that by enforcing this stricter immigration law will provide a reimbursement to the Alabama economy by eliminating public aid and funding to illegal immigrants is arguable. 4.5 million out of the roughly 5.5 million children (roughly 82%)  of undocumented immigrants are actually US born citizens and that number is only rising. In turn, the savings that would be provided from the elimination of the educational benefits being offered to the small percentage of undocumented students is a minute one and would diminish over time. As far as healthcare goes, the fact that some diseases are highly contagious and can spread rapidly is all the more reason to treat illegal immigrants when they become ill. Without doing so, you expose the public to higher risk of infection and would simply force illegal immigrants to go further into hiding or leave the state entirely in order to receive treatment. If the laws do force them to, in essence, self deport out of the state, there would only be a small remuneration from the healthcare savings that would come from it.

            In the case of illegal immigrants posing a threat to the safety and security of the general public is very contingent on the answer to the question of whether illegal immigrants commit more crimes than citizens and legal residents. The truth of the matter is that the majority of illegal immigrants immigrate into the US to achieve a better life and to improve their situation. In turn, they tend to stay below the radar and stay out of trouble as much as they can, as not to jeopardize their already precarious status of being here illegally.

            By and large, it seems to be common knowledge that undocumented workers will tend to work for lower wages. In turn, the lack of said workers would, in theory, improve competition in business due to the lessened factor of the use of cheap labor. This benefit for a sector of the business world does not necessarily equate to the overall economy because this small gain cannot compensate for the loss of demand pull that is lost by eliminating undocumented workers and their families.  Moreover, it has been debated whether or not illegal immigrants are taking jobs away from citizens and residents. If this was a valid argument, the businesses and farmers that employ such workers would not be fighting against this new immigration law, as they would have a swarm of people vying for those newly available jobs that were formerly filled by undocumented workers. The substitution rate of illegal immigrants with legal residents and citizens hasn’t been a successful one. This is due to the fact that many citizens and residents lack the necessary skills and productive initiative that many of the undocumented workers have. Another factor in this unsuccessful transition would be the fact that there is a push in the preparation of the future workforce toward jobs that are high-skilled and high wage earning jobs. It would be nonsensical to think that they would go against that mindset that is being instilled in them and enthusiastically congregate to jobs that earn lower wages under harsher conditions.

            Another argument that is being used to stir up support for the new Alabama immigration law is that by eliminating the funds that are spent on educational services for illegal immigrants and their children, there would be more money to spend on improving education for a larger number of students. This is insinuates that illegal immigrants don’t pay taxes and yet reap the benefits from them. However, this is untrue. Most undocumented immigrants pay some taxes and will rarely receive the benefits of those taxes that are being placed into government assisted programs.

The costs of HB56 are numerous. The expense of simply implementing, enforcing and litigating all the resulting effects alone will be extremely costly to Alabama. These costs are inclusive of the price tag of the creation of a special task force to regulate and authorize that the laws are being enforced properly. Plus, there will be various inconveniences and expenses for citizens and other legal residents. These include issues such as longer lines for simple tasks like car tag renewals due to lawful presence verification requirements and businesses would now be required to send potential employees through E-Verify to ensure the legality of the employment; which is, all in all, a bigger hassle than is necessary. Another discouraging factor in implementing this stricter immigration law is that it sends a negative message about Alabama. It instills the idea that Alabama is anti-immigrant and one could go as far as to generalize that they are possibly xenophobic to the thought of an immigrant based economy, which is something frowned upon in our “melting pot” of a country.

The intent of HB56 is simple and the basic idea of it is a logical one; fix the problem with illegal immigration. The way Alabama went about imposing the law and the myths that were told to their citizens, however, is something that shouldn’t be overlooked. They neglected to convey the negative qualms of the situation and simply highlighted the potential positive benefits. This study reveals the facts, good and bad, and it explains both sides of what could come from HB56.

To read more about this study done by The University of Alabama, please click here.

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