The leadership in the Alabama Legislature should have realized by now that passage of the ill-advised immigration law was a monumental mistake on its part. From all accounts, this bill was drafted by the sponsors and passed by the House and Senate with little thought or concern as to its adverse consequences. There was no real debate on the bill in either chamber and that too was a big mistake. I suspect some legislators voted on the bill without having ever read it. I believe the bill was passed primarily for political gain and little else. In any event, the law has been a disaster for our state.
The damage to our image is only one facet of how badly the new law has hurt our state. The total confusion over the bill and the tremendous expense required to study, enforce and defend the law, along with the economic losses suffered in the business community, have been quite evident. Leaders in the private sector have to be greatly concerned over what has happened. The Birmingham Business Alliance, a well-respected group, has asked the Legislature to make significant revisions to this new law during the upcoming 2012 legislative session. According to the largest business organization in the seven-county area, employers in the region have expressed grave concerns about this law and the unintended consequences it has imposed on employers, particularly those already struggling in an uncertain economy. The BBA had this to say in a news release:
Furthermore, business leaders believe the law as currently written does not reflect the values of fairness and compassion embraced by Alabama citizens.
The enormous damage this law has done to our state is not only being felt in the business community, but it has greatly concerned industrial developers. Most people feel that the law has caused tremendous harm in both camps. When you consider how dependent our state’s economy is on foreign investment, it’s hard to believe that the officials defending the law don’t recognize a major economic problem. Both current and potential investors have to be greatly concerned. James T. McManus, chief executive of Energen Corp., who is also chairman of the BBA, said in a news release:
The BBA believes it is important to enact immigration laws that can be administered in a fair and even-handed way. Revisions to the current law are needed to ensure that momentum remains strong in our competitive economic development efforts. We value the leadership of Governor (Robert) Bentley in acknowledging that simplification of the law is necessary. We also appreciate the willingness of the legislative leadership to improve the law. We stand ready to work with all of them to develop revisions to the statute that will preserve our ability to grow Alabama’s economy and create jobs.
Each day more folks are realizing that the Legislature made a big mistake in passing this new law. I don’t believe even those responsible for drafting the bill could have foreseen all of the problems it has caused. Without any doubt, the BBA is concerned that the law:
• taints the image and perception of Alabama, both nationally and internationally;
• has vague and uncertain penalties on businesses and individuals violating the new law;
• imposes unreasonably severe penalties; and
• will be difficult to enforce at a local level, putting a burden on struggling governmental entities.
There are so many serious problems with the immigration law that it would be virtually impossible to list them all. For example, it has put a tremendous burden on law enforcement officers, school officials and personnel and probate offices around the state, without providing any funding.
Legislative proponents of the bill have suggested some revision is possible, but say they oppose a wholesale repeal of the immigration law. If they continue to take that position, it may turn out to be another very big mistake. But when you consider this law was the handiwork of politicians like Sen. Scott Beason, who has been labeled by a widely-respected federal judge as a “racist,” it was bound to create bad news for our state. Those who followed Sen. Beason’s lead should have anticipated that this law would badly hurt our state’s image.
Any real needs on the immigration front should be addressed by the federal government. Our elected leaders in Alabama, and that certainly includes the legislative leadership, should turn their attention to the vast number of extremely serious problems facing our state. The time, effort and expense of attempting to implement and follow this ill-advised law, as well as the tremendous costs to defend it, could be better spent on problem-solving in our state.
I firmly believe this law should be repealed. We lived through and survived an era in Alabama during which politicians routinely played the “race card” for political gain. We can ill afford to turn the calendar back to those days. Hopefully, reason, along with a sense of decency and plain old common sense, will prevail. If that happens, and the law is repealed, our leaders can then get on with the business of dealing with and solving the many very serious problems facing our state.
Source: Associated Press, Birmingham News and AL.com
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