Main Street Alliance members Edgar Andrade of Bushwick, Brooklyn and Jim Houser of Portland, Oregon were joined on a press call Wednesday by Mayor Paul Bridges of Uvalda, GA to address the drastic ramifications of state-based, enforcement-only immigration laws. These laws are being enacted in states across the country, starting in Arizona and spreading to the South.
These laws not only scapegoat immigrants and lead to a culture of fear, intimidation and hate, but they’re also devastating local economies and communities. Mayor Bridges told of how immigrant members of his community both documented and undocumented are fleeing the state. Georgia’s law is seen as one of the most draconian in the country. It has the hallmarks of the landmark legislation in AZ but also makes it a crime to not report an undocumented immigrant. This climate of fear has culminated in vacated properties and crops rotting in the fields, as workers have moved in search of greener pastures.
Another component of the GA law, which has passed in other states and has been introduced in Congress, would require every worker in the US to have their immigration status verified through a federal database. Known as E-verify, it would have devastating effects on the business community. It is estimated that employers would have lost $2.6M had it been mandatory nationwide last year, according to a Bloomberg Government report.
The costs don’t end there. It will take funding to maintain and enforce this database. Additionally, cities, states and the federal government will lose tax revenue by forcing workers from legitimate jobs into the underground economy. The human toll is impossible to measure. The country simply can’t afford this unfair policy.
Congress needs to pass a comprehensive immigration solution. Without one, we will continue to see these state-based, enforcement-only laws enacted. These laws do nothing to fix the broken immigration system while severely damaging local economies, communities, and contributing to an anti-immigrant climate in a nation of immigrants.