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Alabama’s Anti-Immigrant Law Backfires — Again

by Mahwish Khan on 09/25/2012 at 5:33pm

Remember that crazy anti-immigrant law out of Alabama – HB 56? The one that was so bad that we referred to it as the monster of all immigration laws, which also resulted in a mass-exodus of Alabama’s Hispanic population?

Here’s a reminder from an article in Bloomberg today:

The Alabama law’s intent was to attack “every aspect of an illegal alien’s life,” and “make it difficult for them to live here so they will deport themselves,” Republican House sponsor Micky Hammon said during legislative debate, according to a Birmingham News report.

Well, the law was supposed to “put thousands of native Alabamians back in the work force.” But according to Bloomberg Businessweek, the law actually brought in refugees (mostly Haitian and African). The story focuses on Alabama’s poultry industry — which had long been dominated by Hispanic workers —  in the city of Albertville; population: 21,000.

A small town north of Birmingham, Albertville struggled when the state passed the now infamous HB 56:

Plants sought refugees because too few local residents were interested or qualified, said Frank Singleton, a spokesman for Wayne Farms, based in Oakwood, Georgia.

Many legal Hispanic employees left after the immigration law took effect, he said. The company, which operates six plants in the state, spent $5 million to replace and train new workers, he said. Turnover in North Alabama was 50 percent last year, and is now as high as 90 percent in some plants because replacements didn’t stay, he said. The company is “having to use alternative methods and sourcing,” including recruiting refugees, Singleton said.

Wayne Farms found Eritreans, displaced by war and conflict, and other Africans through East Coast Labor Solutions LLC, a Fairlea, West Virginia-based labor broker. East Coast has about 200 workers in Alabama, owner Ray Wiley said in an interview.

“Our jobs are often in states where immigration laws have hit the hardest, and mostly in the poultry industry,” he said…

The Pew Center has no estimate on how many Hispanics left Alabama. Anecdotal evidence suggests Albertville lost many.

“Here, it’s like a ghost town for Hispanics,” said Rafael Leon, owner of Accessories La Alianza, near Albertville. Leon sat waiting for customers to walk in and buy prepaid mobile phones and sparkly butterfly hair clips, skin creams and key chains. Rows of glass cases were empty. He said the store was busy before the law.

“Now zero,” he said. “Nobody’s coming in.”

He said he’ll move if business doesn’t pick up by December. Leon said one son is about to go to college, another is in high school and he himself has a baby.

“We’re all kind of depressed,” he said.

If you have a minute, read the entire story. It’s worth it.

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