First, farmers saw the immediate economic catastrophe in Alabama because of the state’s draconian immigration law HB 56 as immigrant workers fled and their crops rotted. Then two high-profile arrests of foreign autoworkers legally in the state potentially put international investment in Alabama at risk. As a result, business leaders are now joining the chorus of voices against HB 56 because of serious economic consequences the anti-immigrant law is having on the state — while the state’s governor is playing damage control with the four foreign automakers that employ tens of thousands of Alabamians:
Gov. Robert Bentley, who signed the law, said he’s contacting foreign executives to tell them they and their companies are still welcome in Alabama.
“We are not anti-foreign companies. We are very pro-foreign companies,” he said.
And earlier this week, the business alliance in Birmingham, Alabama’s largest city, called for revisions to the law because the group worried the law was tainting Alabama’s image around the world. James T. McManus, chairman of the Alliance and CEO of the Energen Corp., said revisions “are needed to ensure that momentum remains strong in our competitive economic development efforts.”
Sheldon Day, the mayor of Thomasville, Alabama, has already seen the reality of McManus’ concerns. After Day recruited a Canadian steel company to Thomasville in July 2010, he said 25 companies have visited the town about building plants there. But he told the Wall Street Journal that since the law went into effect, at least one company turned down a visit because of the immigration law. And Golden Dragon Precise Copper Tube Group, a Chinese company that in March pledged to build a $100 million factory in Thomasville, is reconsidering its decision to build a plant in Alabama after the law went into effect.
The mounting concerns among business leaders show a turning point for the immigration law. Already, legislators have weighed in about wanting to change HB 56, and state Attorney General Luther Strange admitted that parts of the harmful law need to be scrapped. For a law that could cost the Alabama economy at least $40 million each year, it should be clear how vital it is for lawmakers in Alabama to do something about the crisis HB 56 created.
Bentley put out a statement today saying that he “recognize[s] that changes are needed” to Alabama’s immigration law, but insisted he would not support repealing the law.