Alabama Businesses Decry Radical Anti-Immigrant Law: ‘Farmers And Business People Could Go Under’

The nation’s most radical immigration law will go before a federal judge in Birmingham, Alabama today as the U.S. Justice Department, civil rights groups, and churches try to block Alabama from instituting its highly discriminatory, “merciless” Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act on Sept. 1. While Republican proponents insist the law will “drive illegal workers out of the state” and open jobs to unemployed Alabamians, another group is joining the chorus of antipathy: actual employers. As undocumented workers follow Georgia’s example and flee the state, employers in Alabama’s largest industries worry that they may “go under”:

Representatives of agribusiness, the state’s biggest industry, and sectors such as construction, which is charged with rebuilding the tornado-hit city of Tuscaloosa, are reporting worker shortages because of immigrants already fleeing the state. The state agriculture commission says squash, tomatoes and other produce are rotting in the fields.

“We have a big problem on our hands,” said Brett Hall, the state’s deputy commissioner for agriculture and industry. “Farmers and business people could go under.” […]

James Latham, chief executive of WAR Construction Inc. in Tuscaloosa, expressed concern about the impact of the exodus on reconstructing the tornado-ravaged region.

“We are seeing smaller crews, and work taking longer to get accomplished, due to less available workers,” said Mr. Latham, who is also president of Alabama Associated General Contractors.

GOP state Rep. Micky Hammon, however, insists that by preventing illegal immigrants “from putting down roots,” the law “will help the economy.” But as the Wall Street Journal notes, Agribusiness contributes $5 billion annually to the state’s economy and the industry is “already hurting” under the new law.

Business owners filled a Montgomery, Alabama auditorium to hear how the extreme regulations will hinder their business. “Unfortunately, it is a HR nightmare,” said a business coalition co-chairman Jay Reed. He said if members aren’t up on the new requirements, it could cost thousands of dollars in fines. “It is the most comprehensive and strict piece of immigration legislation that’s been passed anywhere in the U.S., and it’s right here in Alabama,” he said.

Alabama timber worker Glen Leuenberger said, “I think in a down economy, this is really bad timing, because the last thing we need to do is put more burden on businesses.”