Democratic partisans denounce job-creating Alabama immigration reform

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
Font Size:

Diversity advocates are bombarding Alabama with adjectives.

Left-wing groups are trying to intimidate companies into joining them in lobbying against the state’s successful and popular immigration reform law, which has already prompted a large number of illegal immigrants to flee the state.

The reform has also opened up jobs for thousands of Americans and also helped cut the state’s unemployment rate.

The anti-Alabama campaign complements a broad effort by President Barack Obama to spur turnout by Hispanic supporters for his November re-election effort.

The popular reform, dubbed HB56, is “a travesty of justice … a debacle … an assault of the civil rights of Latinos,” claimed Janet Murguia, CEO of the National Council of La Raza.

Although the bipartisan law has helped many African-Americans find jobs vacated by illegal workers, NAACP Senior Vice President for Advocacy Hilary Shelton condemned it as “a misguided, heinous and racially and ethnically discriminatory law.”

Alabama “seeks to terrorize its foreign residents,” said Wade Henderson, CEO of the liberal Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

The law is “immoral … terrorizes children … [and] is a jobs-killer,” announced Eliseo Medina, international secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union. The law is credited with helping cut the state’s unemployment rate from 9.8 percent in September to 8.1 percent in January.

“Our coalition has taken steps to make sure that foreign investors in Alabama are aware of the problems that HB56 has created and that they have the chance to weigh in on the appropriate solution with the Alabama legislature,” said Henderson.

The rhetorical barrage was delivered Feb. 6 during a telephone press conference intended to pressure executives working for three Alabama-based automakers, Daimler, Hyundai and Honda, to join the anti-reform coalition.

The state legislature begins a several-weeks-long session Feb. 7.

Republicans scoffed at the opposition.

The law “is very popular and we’re certainly not going to repeal it,” Republican state representative Mike Ball told The Daily Caller.

“Numerous polls, statewide & local, show astonishing support for the state’s citizen & taxpayer protection act,” added Chuck Ellis, a council member in the Alabama town of Albertville. “When [almost] 80 percent of the people openly support something, people say it’s a mandate.”

Opposition “mostly is a left-wing thing,” Ball said. Some Democrats in the legislature oppose hte measure, but “if they can count votes, they know they don’t have a chance, so they’re probably trying to rally their base and get a few headlines,” he said.

“Folks in my district,” Ball told TheDC, “overwhelmingly support it.”

Partly because of the reform, “unemployment locally [in Marshall County] is down over 2.5 percent over the last 6 months, sales tax revenues are up in some cases almost 12 percent from a year ago, and district judges are showing close to a 50 percent reduction in case load involving illegal aliens,” Ellis explained.

The new law has also boosted the revenues of local governments, partly because less money is being sent out to relatives in Mexico and other countries, said Ellis.

The anti-reform campaign’s weakness was underlined when La Raza’s Murguia acknowledged that it was not calling for a boycott of the state. “It may, at some point, merit that discussion,” she said.

Medina also recognized the law’s effectiveness, saying that “there’s been a exodus of workers from the state.” She turned this into a negative, however, arguing that Alabama has seen “a huge negative impact, particularly in part in agriculture, where the employers cannot get enough workers to come in and do their work.”

Supporters of the law say any job shortage is being resolved by employers by choosing to raise wages or to hire currently unemployed workers who are in the United States legally.

But the diversity groups’ rhetorical lashing is also intended to deter other state legislatures from copying Alabama’s successful reform, to spur interest in a March protest against the law, and to sway the outcome of a lawsuit seeking to persuade a judge to strike it down.

The coalition members used similar tactics against a reform measure passed in Arizona. Their opposition, claimed Murguia, has cost Arizona’s economy up to $750 million.

Advocy groups are working with President Barack Obama’s deputies at the Justice Department to overturn the Alabama and Arizona laws in court, as part of a broader Obama administration effort to work with Hispanic ethnic lobbies, such as La Raza, to spur Hispanic turnout in November.

Most Hispanics tell pollsters that their top priorities are jobs, the economy and education.

But when pressed by the ethnic lobbies, Hispanic voters also say immigration enforcement is a threat to their communities. Democratic activists hope to use that sense of ethnic solidarity as leverage to drive Hispanics to the polls.

Follow Neil on Twitter