When HB 56, Alabama’s harmful immigration law, went into effect in the fall, the most immediate effect were the immigrant families who fled the state. Businesses lost their workers and customers, farmers watched their crops rot without enough workers to harvest them, and parents pulled their children out of school or kept them home from school out of fear.
But supporters of the law thought they had found a silver lining; after only a month, they claimed the immigration law was already causing the state’s unemployment rate to drop. And as the rate has continued to drop a little each month since portions of the law, officials and right-wing media have perpetuated the myth that HB 56 has caused the declining unemployment rate. After three months of declines, the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Scott Beason finally chimed in last week to celebrate the specious connection:
“Since the anti-illegal immigration law went into effect, Alabama has seen a tremendous drop in unemployment. A drop that far outpaces the other states in the region,” said Alabama State Senator Scott Beason. ”In three months Alabama has dropped 1.7 points to a level below the national average.” [...]
“I promised that the anti-illegal immigration law would open up thousands of jobs for Alabamians, and it has done that. People are going back to work.
“The critics may whine, but many of our neighbors have jobs again. I know those folks are thankful for the opportunity to work and support their families, and that opportunity was opened up by HB-56.”
Beason ignores the fact that even Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R), who signed the immigration bill into law, has admitted there is no data to back up the connection. And instead of opening up jobs, businesses have seen jobs lost because of HB 56. At least one jobs recruiter in the state has said the state may actually be driving away foreign companies looking to build new plants because of the immigration law.
Taking a closer look at the numbers shows that, as the unemployment rate dropped from 9.8 percent in September down to 8.1 percent in December, the workforce has also shrunk, rather than adding more jobs. For example, in October 3,578 Alabamians gained jobs, while 6,258 either died, left the state, or stopped looking for employment. And between December 2011 and November 2011, the civilian workforce in Alabama dropped from 2,145,259 people in November to 2,131,994 in December.
Beason and others who raise up Alabama’s immigration law as a job-creating measure are relying on a sleight of hand to hide the true harm behind the measure.