Given the current anti-immigrant climate in the U.S., it comes as no surprise that an Alabama federal judge upheld many provisions of that state’s new immigration legislation, which takes Arizona’s SB 1070 and raises it a few rights-limiting provisions. And while much of the abhorrent legislation was allowed to stand, it is hard to tell for now whether the judge’s reservation of judgment on numerous provisions—and reservation of implementation in the interim—is a good or bad sign for immigrants. What does seem clear, though, is that on the state and federal level alike, there is confusion not about the state of the economy (after all, who could be confused about that?), but about what immigrants’ contribution has been, is, and should be. A close look reveals that Alabama’s economy depends on the work of immigrants, and that the state’s new legislation will have high dollar costs to the state as well as high human costs to the immigrant population.
There appears to be general consensus that the U.S. needs to shift its economic focus in order to try to regain the economic might of a bygone era—in other words, skilled is the name of the game. But Alabama’s approach has looked backward instead of forward, cutting off immigrants’ access to many educational opportunities, effectively blocking the growth of a skilled workforce, and arguably placing a huge roadblock in the road to economic recovery and growth.