Martin Morales, a Dothan business owner who runs five restaurants including
one in Montgomery, says Alabama's new immigration law is causing immigrants to
leave the state and some business owners say this is happening even if the
workers are here legally.
He said he has lost about 15 employees at his restaurants since the new immigration law was signed.
"They are gone -- they are in Louisiana now," he said.
All the workers had provided Social Security numbers when he hired them.
Jay Reed, president of Associated Builders and Contractors of Alabama, said one of his members in Mobile recently lost 14 documented workers to jobs in Florida.
"Those here legally feel that (the law) is a statement that they are not welcome here, legal or illegal," Reed said, who is also co-chair of Alabama Employers for Immigration Reform. "While the intent of the law was certainly to ensure illegal workers weren't on job sites, even legal workers are leaving the state."
"(Lawmakers) were trying to solve one problem but created another," he said.
Another problem business owners said the law creates is that they now have been made responsible for policing the law, which is said to be the toughest in the nation.
The law requires Alabama businesses to use the national E-Verify system to check the legal status of any new employees.
Many business owners have questions about complying with the law. Nearly 200 people have signed up for an information session sponsored by ALEIR this morning in Montgomery.
Earlier this month, ALEIR had to add a second information session in Birmingham because of the number of business owners who wanted to attend. Those attending have ranged from farmers to contractors to country club and car dealership owners, said ALEIR co-chair.
Rep. Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, who sponsored the bill that became law said that he has heard of cases of "self-deportation."
The purpose of the law, Hammon said, was to discourage illegal immigrants from coming to Alabama and to keep those already here from putting down roots.
"It seems to be working," he said Tuesday.
Previously, he's said that the cost in Alabama of educating children of illegal immigrants was about $200 million a year.
He said there will be costs to enforcing the law, but those would be outweighed by the costs of medical care, law enforcement, depressed wages, lost tax revenue and education costs caused by illegal immigration.
Hammon said he has heard from business owners and farmers who will be impacted by a lack of workers.
"I understand that they have a legitimate concern, and we need to help them any way we can to find the labor they need."
He said conversations are going on now and the state agriculture department will be involved in "recruiting legal, American workers to do the task that (farmers and business owners) need."
"The department of agriculture will be working to help the farmers of this state just as they always do."
Alabama farmers aren't the only ones with worries about their crops. Earlier this summer in Georgia, which also passed an anti-immigration law, Republican Gov. Nathan Deal started a program to offer fieldwork to
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