The anniversary of a mistake
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Apr 02, 2012 | 3701 views |  0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A year ago, the Alabama Legislature took on a chore primarily reserved for the federal government — immigration. It was unusual, especially given Alabama’s history of not fully embracing the chores required of state governments.

Thursday marks the one-year anniversary that the Alabama House of Representatives passed HB56, a measure that “attacks every aspect of an illegal alien’s life,” sponsor Rep. Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, said at the time.

“This bill is designed to make it difficult for them to live here so they will deport themselves,” Hammon said on April 5, 2011.

Two months later in early June, the apex of anti-illegal immigrant bluster arrived when Gov. Robert Bentley signed the bill into law. The story since has been a long and disastrous slide for Alabama.

The courts dismantled various unconstitutional parts of the law.

High-profile embarrassments involving the detainment of international executives who were legally in the country delivered another black eye.

Alabama’s agricultural industry, which had been ignored during the HB56 debate, suddenly found itself in the middle of a labor crisis. Soon, HB56’s boosters were dodging rotten fruit and vegetables, much of which could have come from spoiled Alabama crops.

According to the Center for Business & Economic Research at the University of Alabama, the cost of Alabama’s anti-immigrant folly was steep — an annual loss of $2.3 billion and reduction of at least 70,000 jobs.

Measuring the state’s damaged reputation as a quality place to live and work is nearly impossible to quantify, but it’s difficult to imagine that xenophobia is appealing.

What a hefty bill of unintended consequences for Montgomery’s newly installed Republican leadership to ring up in a year.

As it returns to work this week, the Legislature is scheduled to revisit illegal immigration. “We just hope to make the immigration bill better,” Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, told the Associated Press.

That’s a noble aim, as far as it goes. Better beats worse. However, Montgomery remains unable to understand that immigration is the responsibility of the feds, a chore Washington has failed to seriously address.

Here’s a two-fold suggestion for Montgomery.

1. Draft a petition begging Washington to reform the nation’s immigration laws.

2. Work to reduce adult illiteracy in Alabama. One million Alabamians — 25 percent of the state — are functionally illiterate. They need help from Montgomery. Making them better readers improves their lives and the economic fortunes of the state.

The number of functionally illiterate Alabamians is 10 times the estimated amount of illegal immigrants in the state. It is a matter of priorities.
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