The use of illegal labor, he said, has hit African-Americans especially hard. Ten years ago, many of state’s bricklayers were African-American, but once contractors hired illegals, there was no way to recruit and train a new generation of African-American bricklayers, he said.
“A lot of people are arguing ‘We need this cheap dependable labor force,’ [but] a lot of people that were justifying slavery were using that argument” in the 1800s, Ball said.
However, there’s little firm data about how many jobs are opening because the immigration reform has only just begun implementation, following a Sept. 28 decision by U.S. District Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn in Birmingham, Alabama, to reject Obama’s request for the law to be declared unconstitutional.
Administration officials then asked for the law to be stayed pending an appeal, but she turned down their request Oct. 6.
The administration and ethnic advocacy groups appealed the judge’s decision to the Atlanta-based 11th Circuit, which ruled against them Friday.
Since the law went into effect, business leaders in the agriculture, retail, restaurant and construction fields have complained about the immediate or expected loss of immigrant labor.
Also, school officials have also said that hundreds of students have gone absent. The students may be the children of foreign immigrants, legal or illegal.
On Thursday, Governor Robert Bentley announced a new plan to help farmers employ state residents following farmers’ complaints that many agriculture workers were leaving the state.
News jobs have opened at chicken-processing plants, including 120 at a facility in Marshall County.
Up to one-quarter of the state’s commercial-construction workers have already left the state, Bill Caton, president of Associated General Contractors of Alabama, said last week.
The impact on the construction industry is significant, but the estimate that one-quarter of existing employees are leaving “may be bit high,” said Devid Feemster, who heads the Subcontractors Association of Alabama. In April, the state’s 400 construction contractors will have to use the federal E-Verify network to show the eligibility of their workers. “Until E-Verify comes on, we can’t figure it,” he said.
Employers in the Alabama Nursery & Landscape Association will find out next spring how many of their workers have left, said association chief James Harwell. For now, he said, “we’re losing some of the legal workers — they’re just scared” of enforcement, he said. He doesn’t know if his members are advertising for new workers, because “they just put ads in newspapers or hire anybody that will work,” he said.
The state’s 4,000 retailers have not reported new job openings, but they also have until April to verify the eligibility of their workers, said Nancy Dennis, the spokesman for the Alabama Retail Federation.
The Alabama Restaurant Association declined to comment.
When writing state laws, Ball said, “our priority has to be at least letting our people have a level playing playing-field.”
Hispanics comprise only three percent of Alabama’s population. Half of the Hispanics are immigrants. Alabama is expected to vote Republican in 2012.