GOP front-runner Donald Trump is running on (among other insane ideas) an immigration platform that advocates for the most vicious, racist, draconian laws ever imagined. His ideas stop just short of customs in ancient Japan under the shoguns, when unwelcome foreigners could be killed outright. Likewise, Alabama House Bill 56, signed into law by current governor Robert Bentley, didn’t go that far – but it did virtually everything else.
Alabama State Representative Micky Hammon, the lead sponsor of the bill, proudly proclaimed that the law “attacks every aspect of an illegal alien’s life…[it will] make it so difficult for them to live here, so they will deport themselves.” HB 56 gave law enforcement the authority to arrest anyone simply “suspected” of being in the country illegally. In addition, landlords were prohibited from renting to undocumented immigrants and school districts were required to confirm students’ immigration status. Employers were forbidden to hire anyone who might be in the country illegally. A person who simply offered a ride to someone suspected of being an illegal alien could face criminal charges.
Now, just a little over three-and-a-half years after the “Great Experiment” began, it has ended in dismal failure.
Part of the reason is that the law succeeded all-too-well in achieving Representative Hammon’s goal. Workers from Latin America fled the state in droves. Among other things, that mass exodus hamstrung Alabama’s agricultural industry. As a result, large factory farms, poultry operations and related businesses found themselves having to spend millions of dollars in order to attract and train new employees. Those dollars didn’t produce much in the way of results. A chicken farm in Albertville held a job fair that was attended by 250 local job seekers – but few attendees had the necessary skills or experience. Of the few who were hired, many quit because of the demands of the job. A company spokesman said that “the turnover rate has gone through the roof.”
The law didn’t just drive away undocumented workers. Many Latino workers with legal immigrant status also fled the state, rather than risk being separated from spouses and family members who may have been in the US illegally.
The exodus of Hispanic residents has had a “chilling effect” on the entire economy. Rental units now stand empty, and patronage at stores where Latinos frequently shop is down significantly.
Ironically, Trump, now the poster boy for hardline anti-immigration laws, was once critical of “mean spirited” attitudes toward immigrants. Just after the election of 2012, he told reporters that a big reason for Mitt Romney’s defeat was his stance on immigration. “He had a crazy policy of self-deportation, which was maniacal…it sounded as bad as it was, and he lost all of the Latino vote…he lost everybody who is inspired to come into this country.”
Now, Trump is heading down the same road. Like Alabama lawmakers and citizens who blame the Federal government and cling to the idea that the law “just needs time to work,” he has learned nothing from the failure of HB 56. Instead, Trump is hell-bound and determined to alienate the entire Hispanic voting electorate.
Historically, no presidential candidate has been able to win the White House without the Latino vote. Should Trump become the GOP nominee, we can only hope that he’ll continue to shoot his mouth off – and thus keep shooting himself in the foot.