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Pros and cons of immigration reform
The Immigration Debate featured three prominent speakers at the Spencer Honors House who collectively debated the pros and cons of immigration reform this past Thursday, November 8, 2012. It was specifically targeted at the Alabama level and centering on the controversial anti-illegal immigration bill, HB 56.
The Hammon-Beason Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act was signed into law in June 2011 and is regarded as one of the strictest immigration bills to ever have been passed at the state level.
The first speaker, Alabama State Senator Beason, who cosponsored HB56, started off by defending the bill and presenting the positives of strengthened immigration provisions, stating, “What you have to do…is try to deal with what the realities are and what the issues are we have to deal with, and we have to separate those, sometimes, from our emotional attachments.”
Beason made the arguments that the influx of illegal immigrants to the U.S. drives down wages, creates less job opportunities for American citizens and thereby increases unemployment rates.
Beason further comments, “If you have far more people seeking work, you can pay those people less and it does the same for Americans in the same field.” He ended his arguments by stating how unemployment rates have showed considerable decline since the enactment of HB 56 and that menial jobs have been more open for employment opportunities.
The next speaker, Isabel Rubio, presented a different perspective on the issue. She is the Executive Director of Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama and therefore, presented her arguments for how the bill has negatively affected not only the immigrants but perceptions of Alabamians.
“We were having to constantly talk about what’s going on in Alabama because it’s so reminiscent of what happened when Birmingham was known around the world as Bombingham,” said Rubio.
Rubio continued to discuss how the HB 56 provisions in which contracts formed with illegal immigrants are considered null and void. Landlords are prohibited from renting property to illegal immigrants and school districts are mandated to submit tallies on the suspected number of illegal immigrants in annual reports.
Rubio, who did agree with Senator Beason that immigration reform is needed to strengthen the preexisting regulations, continued “There is still work to be done. We’ve got to come up with an immigration reform that provides a pathway for citizenship.”
Director of the Center for Business and Economic Research Dr. Samuel Addy concluded the arguments by discussing the benefits and costs of the implementation of HB 56.
Dr. Addy showed how a major economic problem the state has faced as a result of the bill is that there has been a drop in consumer demand due to the departure of about 40,000-80,000 immigrant workers. He also showed how the amounts of goods and services produced would see an eventual decline of between $2.3 billion and $10.8 billion.
Lastly, Addy stated, “Most people who are illegal enter the country legally. It’s just that they overstay their visas. We just need a different system.”
The questions taken from students at the conclusion of the arguments ranged from a wide array of subjects. When one student inquired as to what states should do until the federal government takes responsibility for immigration standards, Rubio said, “I believe it is not the state’s responsibility to address immigrations at all. But I think that’s reason enough to put pressure on our federally elected officials.”