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This time last year, Alabama had just begun implementing its worst-in-the-nation anti-immigrant law, HB 56, causing chaos in the state and forcing neighborhoods full of immigrants to flee. At the time, state senator and HB 56 sponsor Scott Beason rationalized the law as “a jobs bill,” one that would drive immigrants out of the state and return American jobs to Americans.
A year later, it turns out that Alabama has the worst economy in the Southeast.
“Worse than Louisiana,” wrote Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Joey Kennedy at the Birmingham News. “Worse than South Carolina. Heck, worse than, my goodness, ThankGodforMississippi.”
“There is a saving grace,” however, as he noted. “While Alabama’s economy sucks more than any other in the Southeast, it’s only the fourth worst economy in the United States. Yea us! We’re No. 47!”
The slowdown in Alabama’s economy can be traced back to HB 56 and its incredibly harsh anti-immigrant measures. A few months after Alabama began implementing the law, University of Alabama economist Dr. Sam Addy released a report finding that HB 56 could ultimately cost Alabama as much as $11 million in economic output and as many as 70,000 to 140,000 jobs. It turns out that when immigrant laborers and field workers left the state, American workers—contrary to Beason’s theories—didn’t want to do back-breaking manual labor, and crops suffered severe labor shortages. And when all these workers leave, suddenly there are fewer people buying the products they would’ve bought, and needing the services they would’ve needed—and economic output goes down.
That’s why, Kennedy writes, “Unemployment [in Alabama] is down to about 8.3 percent, from last October’s 8.8 percent, but economists attribute that to jobs that have simply disappeared, not to jobs having been created.”
And yet the state leaders who got Alabama into this mess seem unwilling to recognize the consequences of HB 56. As Kennedy writes:
Our state leaders are nothing if not in profound denial. There is no telling how many business opportunities we’ve missed because companies took Alabama off their lists of possibilities after our hateful law was passed and our national reputation as an open and accepting state was destroyed…
Alabama has self-inflicted this economic wound, just so a group of self-serving politicians could score political points at election time by pandering to our worst natures. They accomplished their goal. Meanwhile, Alabama’s weak economy continues to suffer, unable to reach even the most modest of its goals.
A few months ago, the US 11th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down much of HB 56, declaring it mostly unconstitutional while tentatively leaving a “show me your papers” component standing. The move came too late for Alabama, though, where it seems the damage has been done.