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HB 56, Controversial Immigration Law, Hurting Alabama

Cara Palmer |
March 12, 2012 | 2:15 p.m. PDT

Senior Editor

(Justin Valas, Creative Commons)
(Justin Valas, Creative Commons)
The Association of Departments of Family Medicine (ADFM), an organization representing Family Medicine departments from medical schools and teaching hospitals throughout the United States, decided to move its national conference, scheduled for winter 2013, to a state other than Alabama. Despite a letter written to ADFM explaining Mobile’s status as a “welcoming, cosmopolitan destination,” the association voted to withdraw anyway.

The reason for the move is Alabama’s new immigration law, HB 56, which was passed right after Alabama was chosen as the location of the 2013 conference.

ADFM stated that HB 56 “has created an environment that threatens the personal sense of safety, security, and comfort for some of our members, particularly our Latino members.” The immigration law conflicts with ADFM’s goal of “making sure that all of our members can attend our annual meeting without feeling personally threatened or subject to an increased level of monitoring or scrutiny.” In a news release, ADFM continued, “We support the people of Mobile, Alabama, and look forward to a time when we can bring our meeting back to Mobile.”

Allen Perkins, Chairman of the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, Family Medicine Department, and point person for ADFM’s 2013 conference, said that there were members “who felt they would not be able to jog without identification if they did not appear to be American.”

According to ThinkProgress, David Randel, president of the Mobile Bay Convention and Visitors Bureau, stated that before this decision by ADFM, “he had not heard of a convention pulling out of Alabama because of HB 56. ‘The question, really, is how many meeting planners didn’t call Alabama because of the immigration law.’”

The immigration law was under review by an Atlanta federal appeals court March 1. So far, according to Al.com, several parts of HB 56, the strongest anti-immigration law in the country, “have been temporarily blocked by federal courts, such as the portions making it illegal to rent or give a ride to an illegal immigrant,” the requirement that schools check the immigration status of students, and sections that prohibit “undocumented workers from entering into contracts with others” and “from conducting business transactions.” But, “the majority of the 72-page law remains in place, including sections requiring police to check immigration status during traffic stops and barring illegal immigrants from conducting business with local governments.” Basically, under HB 56, if a person does not produce identification when requested to do so by a police officer, that person can be arrested.

The negative consequences of the law on the state, regardless of whether one supports the law or not, cannot be ignored.

The board of ADFM voted to withdraw its reservation at the Battle House Hotel Renaissance Mobile Hotel & Spa, a stay that would have brought $700,000 to Mobile’s economy, which is already facing a $27 million deficit, according to Mobile Tribune.

The withdrawal of ADFM’s conference from Alabama, and the loss of that potential $700,000 from the economy, is just one of the many economic consequences of the law. A study conducted by Dr. Samuel Addy, an economist at the University of Alabama, concludes that the costs incurred by HB 56 are much greater than any benefit it might bring to the state. Univision News reports:

“The Addy report found that HB56 would cause Alabama to lose about 70,000 to 140,000 jobs, $2.3 billion to $10.8 billion in GDP (that is 1.3 to 6.2 percent of the economy), $56.7 million to $264.5 million in state income and sales taxes and $20 million to $93.1 million in local taxes.


“Most of Alabama’s 85,000 undocumented workers are in the agriculture, construction, accommodation and food services, and drinking places sectors, according to the study. Undocumented workers make up about 24% of the workforce for these sectors in Alabama. It won’t be easy to fill all of these jobs even in a distressed economy.


“The report estimates that if 60,000 workers with an average income of $25,000 left the state, the economy would lose $5.8 billion — that’s 3.3% of the Alabama economy. If 80,000 workers with an average income of $35,000 left the state, the economy would lose $10.8 billion — or 6.2% of the economy.”

Not only are there negative economic consequences of the law, but foreign investors and other industries will be less likely to invest in Alabama, because its “image of being welcoming to foreign investors has taken a huge hit.” This case is illustrated well by ADFM’s choice to take its conference, and therefore its business, elsewhere.

Regardless of one's views on illegal immigration, perhaps the stringency of laws such as HB 56, rather than constituting a solution to illegal immigration, hurt the country vastly more than they can help it.


Reach Senior Opinion Editor Cara Palmer here or follow her on Twitter.



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