LatinaLista — Much news has been made over Alabama’s tough immigration policy, HB 56, and how it has adversely affected the state’s agriculture economy by driving the immigrant labor out of the state.
Rather than scrap the law or make changes that could help the farmers, politicians would rather have officials with the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries meet today with farmers to propose a solution — use prison inmates to do the labor nobody else wants to do.
It seems the prison system isn’t too enthusiastic about the idea.
Prison spokesman Brian Corbett says the state has about 2,000 work-release prisoners, and most already have jobs.
Corbett says the prison system isn’t the solution to worker shortages caused by the law.
If Alabama lawmakers continue to dig their heels into the proverbial soil, it may not be too long before they end up eating their legislation — just like their Oklahoma colleagues.
Back in 2007, the Oklahoma legislature passed a bill titled the Oklahoma Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act of 2007, otherwise known as HB 1804. Its intent was just like that of Alabama’s HB56 — drive out undocumented immigrants.
Supporters of HB 1804 said the same thing about undocumented immigrants that Alabama supporters are saying now — that the undocumented are a drain on their state.
Well, it’s been four years and Oklahoma legislators are seeing and feeling the effects of just how wrong they were.
“Since the passage of House Bill 1804, we’ve seen a mass exodus of undocumented immigrants who have taken up residence in Texas and other surrounding states where they pump millions of dollars into those economies,” Sen. Harry Coates, R-Seminole said. “House Bill 1804 did little more than put Oklahoma companies at a disadvantage by sending dedicated, knowledgeable workers to competing companies in other states. Losing that workforce has been devastating for many of Oklahoma’s industries, including agriculture, energy and construction.”
To undo some of the harm that HB 1804 did, Sen. Coates filed on Monday, Dec. 5, Senate Bill 995 that would allow undocumented guest workers to work in the state if they bought a $2,000 guest worker permit, renewable every two years.
Now, if I was someone who had already left the state and was working elsewhere, the notion that I would return and pay $2000 to a state that treated me so badly is a no-brainer.
Yet, if I never left the state and my children were born in Oklahoma then the proposal could have some merit, except for one thing — the cost.
Two thousand dollars is a lot of money to a family who is living in poverty, and we know that undocumented immigrant families are living a very hand-to-mouth existence. Yet, the legislator not only wants the undocumented workers to pay the fee but even more:
SB 995 would also establish an immediate family permit that would provide protection to the immigrant’s immediate family members including spouses and children. Each family member would be required to purchase a permit for $500.
The press release issued by the Oklahoma State Capitol doesn’t clarify whether or not that $500 permit has to be paid for those family members born in the United States. Common sense would dictate no, but common sense didn’t prevail in the passage of this bill so anything goes.
If Oklahoma legislators were serious about wanting undocumented immigrants to help their economy then they should reduce the cost of the permits to a more reasonable and practical amount and give them their money’s worth — issue a state sanctioned ID that allows them to get a driver’s license, car insurance and have healthcare.
Otherwise, this legislation is as mean-spirited as the original bill and during a time like Christmas, we need more bills that reflect the knowledge that when it comes down to it — we all really do need each other.