By Tamsin McMahon - Wednesday, November 21, 2012 - 0 Comments
Alabama’s immigration laws are embarrassing the state, and costing it money
When Alabama passed America’s most aggressive immigration law last year, legislators heralded the bill as a cure for the state’s high unemployment.
Under the new law, virtually all interactions with any government official would become a test of an immigrant’s status—from roadside stops by police, to enrolling children in public school, to paying a utility bill.
The idea was to make it so difficult for illegal immigrants to live and work in the United States that they would simply pack up and leave, freeing up thousands of jobs for out-of-work Americans.
Leave they did. Officials say Alabama’s illegal alien population fell by 75,000 in the three months following the bill’s passage. But when it came to putting more Americans back to work, the reality has proven to be a lot more complicated.
Alabama’s poultry processing industry complained it couldn’t find enough local workers willing to spend long hours gutting chickens for low pay. Companies, it has emerged, are being forced to import African and Haitian refugees to do the work.
Meanwhile, Alabama became the butt of international jokes when police arrested a German Mercedes-Benz executive as well as a Honda manager from Japan for allegedly not having their proper immigration papers with them during roadside stops. Both were on temporary assignments overseeing Alabama’s burgeoning foreign auto industry; Honda has more than 4,000 employees in Alabama, with an investment worth $1.4 billion.
Rival states quickly turned news of the arrests into a chance to promote themselves as more friendly to international business. “We are the ‘Show Me State,’ not the ‘Show Me Your Papers State,’ ” trumped Missouri’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
It’s not just Alabama that is struggling with the fallout from its tough stand on illegal immigrants. Five other states have also enacted such laws. Georgia witnessed an estimated 40 per cent drop in the state’s farm workers, triggering nearly $140 million in agricultural losses in 2011 as unpicked produce rotted in fields. The state has since begun shipping in prisoners to help at harvest time. In Arizona, churches complained they witnessed an immediate drop in attendees and donations after immigration laws went into effect. One church reportedly went into foreclosure.
Far from putting more Americans back to work, business leaders complained the laws were discouraging foreign investment. Spanish bank BBVA Compass has scrapped plans for an $80-million office tower in Birmingham over immigration concerns. “We’ve used difficulties in other states to make sure those people come and look here,” David Bronner, head of Alabama’s pension system, told the Birmingham News. “We’ve just used a hammer and we’ve hit ourselves over the head with it.”
By Stephanie Findlay - Tuesday, May 24, 2011 at 9:35 AM - 0 Comments
A recent B.C. complaint is the latest in a series of controversies relating to the rights of migrant agricultural workers in Canada
The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), a union that represents food industry workers in Canada and the U.S., filed a complaint to the B.C. Labour Relations Board against the Mexican government and a Mission, B.C.-based farm, for allegedly blocking the return of a seasonal Mexican worker to Canada for his involvement in a union. The UFCW claims it has a Mexican government report blacklisting Victor Robles Velez, who had worked the last four years at Sidhu & Sons Nursery Ltd., for his union involvement. “The Mexican consulate has gone to the farms and injected themselves in the democratic process by telling workers and threatening workers that if they unionize or vote for a union they’ll be sent back to Mexico immediately,” says Wayne Hanley, the UFCW president. The hearing for the complaint, filed last month, is expected to take place in the next couple of weeks.
The Mexican consulate in Vancouver and the owners of the farm categorically deny the charges. “Absolutely not, there is no blacklist,” says a consulate spokesperson, adding the consulate has “absolute respect for the workers’ right to join the unions.”
The B.C. complaint is the latest in a series of controversies relating to the rights of migrant agricultural workers in Canada. Last month, the Supreme Court of Canada upheld a controversial ban on collective bargaining rights for migrant agricultural workers in Ontario, a decision critics say benefits employers and leaves foreign workers vulnerable. Andy Neufeld, a communications director with the UFCW, says that, if proven, the B.C. complaints have national, even international, consequences. “We’re talking about a government’s interference with their citizens’ rights,” says Neufeld, adding, “It would be surprising if somehow we were special out here in B.C. and this was an isolated incident.”