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The Texas House passed its version of the anti-immigrant SB4 today, a draconian bill that would allow local law enforcement officials to ask people about their immigration status, and one that has been described as a “white supremacist’s field day.”
As five sheriffs wrote in an op-ed against the bill, SB4 is likely to make communities less safe, as immigrants become too scared of the police to report crimes or serve as witnesses. But that’s just the beginning of Texas’ problems: extremist, anti-immigrant laws have been passed by states like Alabama, Georgia, Arizona before, and they brought major trouble to those states as a result. Why is Texas so eager to make the same mistakes?
When Arizona, Georgia, and Alabama passed their anti-immigrant laws a few years ago, here are some things that happened:
The states lost billions of dollars: A University of Alabama economist found that HB 56 cost the state up to $11 billion in a single year, which included damage to the state GDP, the loss of some 140,000 jobs, and the loss of $357 million in state and local taxes. In Georgia, unharvested crops cost the state $300 million, which caused a “ripple effect” that resulted in $1 billion in collateral losses.
In Texas, groups have pointed out that the purchasing power of all the immigrants in the state is around $100 billion. Texas undocumented immigrants pay about $1.5 billion in state and local taxes annually.
The Alabama and Georgia agricultural industries withered: Immigrants were a major source of labor on Alabama and Georgia farms, and in the wake of anti-immigrant laws in both states, farmers lost workers and were unable to find Americans unwilling to do the jobs. Many farmers went out of business, and the agricultural industries there still have not recovered.
Arizona was permanently painted as an unwelcoming state: Cities, sports leagues, musicians, and others boycotted Arizona, ultimately leading to the loss of $490 million in tourism revenue in a single year, along with 3,000 tourist jobs. Texas is host to an immigrant-friendly tech hub, cultural events like SXSW, and just hosted the 2017 Super Bowl. Will organizations make similar decisions in the future to hold their events in such an unwelcoming state?
Alabama got into big trouble with one of its major industries: auto manufacturing: First it was the arrest of a visiting German Mercedes-Benz executive. Then it was the citation of a Japanese employee of the Honda plant in Lincoln, Alabama. Just like Texas’ SB4 bill does, Alabama’s HB 56 required everyone in the state to prove they were legally there. This led to trouble for multiple confused foreign executive and employees working in Alabama; the state had to reassure its auto industry; and ultimately this was one of the reasons the state legislature had to change parts of HB 56 just months after its initial passing.
Immigrants left town in the middle of the night: Immigrants, terrified of being detained and deported, deserted towns like Russellville, Alabama, where worked in the nearby poultry plants, opened businesses, and filled downtown commercial space. In the wake of HB 56, much of the downtown was shuttered, children were pulled out of school, and families left the state altogether — taking their business, labor, and contributions to the economy with them.
The anti-immigrant laws were all eventually struck down: The final word on Georgia’s HB 87 came in 2012, Alabama’s HB 56 in 2013, and Arizona’s SB 1070 in 2014. After millions in legal fees, years of effort, and untold chaos for immigrant communities, federal judges wiped out each of the states’ anti-immigrant laws.
Yet now, Texas wants to open up this box again. It’s sure to be a costly, destructive, and unwise decision. And, our allies in Texas have made it very clear they are going to use every tool at their disposal to fight it.
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