Debating immigration: Alabama's new law, Obama's strategy

of the Associated General Contractors of Alabama quoted estimates showing nearly one-fourth of the state’s commercial building work force has fled since the law went into effect.

Universityof Alabama economist Samuel Addy estimates that Alabama’s economy will shrink by $40 million if undocumented workers are driven from the state and U.S. workers are unwilling to fill those jobs.

IM: The greatest deterrent to agricultural employers in Alabama and elsewhere attracting a legal labor force has been their unwillingness to provide competitive wages and decent working conditions. In many respects, the agricultural industry has created a self-fulfilling prophecy. American agriculture has also failed to make needed capital investments to mechanize the harvest of many crops that are picked by machines in other developed countries. Agriculture also has access to unlimited numbers of guest workers, but in most cases employers have eschewed the program and opted instead for illegal workers because it was more convenient and less expensive. A reasonable case could be made to make the application process less cumbersome for employers, but they do have viable alternatives to illegal labor.

Nationally, the industry that employs the most illegal aliens is construction. These have traditionally been jobs that have provided American workers decent pay with benefits. After some small period of adjustment, we are likely to see such jobs filled by American workers at higher wages. Traditionally internal migration – Americans moving from one part of the country to another – has helped employers address spot shortages of workers. If illegal aliens have left a vacuum on some sectors of the Alabama economy, there is no reason why we cannot fill those jobs with the millions of Americans who are currently unemployed or underemployed. Late in the Bush Administration there was a short period in which immigration laws were being enforced in the workplace. In every instance the jobs vacated by illegal aliens were immediately filled by American workers – even before the full effects of the recession kicked in.

With the exception of seasonal agriculture, there is not a single industry where a significant majority of the labor force is not made up of American workers. There are virtually no jobs that Americans will not do; there are wages and working conditions that Americans will not accept and we should not tolerate policies that price American workers out of the jobs in their own country.

HSNW: In recent years immigration has become an increasing concern