An Unlikely Immigrant Ally

By: Daniel Nardini

Alabama is now one of the handful of states that have joined Arizona in creating their own state immigration laws. The others are Georgia, Indiana and Utah. The state immigration laws passed by Georgia, Indiana and Utah are now being challenged in federal court. Chances are Alabama’s state immigration law will be the next to be challenged. What is interesting is that more states—many of them being Republican—are not passing state immigration laws.

There are three reasons for this. The first is the challenge from Latinos and other immigrants. Voting power means people power, and politicians from any party want votes. Another are the courts. The courts have become a very effective tool in the fight against state immigration laws. There is a third ally that Latinos, immigrants and the courts can more or less count on. One example of who this ally is can be found in the politics of Florida.
Florida, which is a Republican state, tried to pass its own version of a state immigration law. It failed. Why? Florida Governor Rick Scott is known for being extremely conservative. Among his most controversial moves was signing legislation requiring mandatory drug testing of all recipients for welfare. But he did not endorse any legislation for a state immigration crackdown. This was because he did not have the backing of the business community in Florida. The Florida Chamber of Commerce, which represents many of Florida’s leading businesses, lobbied hard against a state immigration law in Florida.

Their reasoning is not hard to figure out. With such a law, they will be required to use the E-Verify program. More than that, Florida businesses would have to be more discerning in their approach to getting employees, making deals with other companies, and any investments they may make. In other words, they do not want someone watching over their backs. Besides, the Florida Chamber of Commerce warned that such a state immigration law might scare away visiting tourists from around the world who come and spend lots of money and invest heavily in Florida. So it is no surprise that the Florida Chamber of Commerce made it very clear to Governor Scott that a state immigration law would be a disaster for Florida.

The business communities in many other states have also had an impact on their state legislators, and why more state immigration laws have not been passed. Businesses can hurt as well as aid in the prosperity of their states. A business can do more than vote. A business can also go to court. A business can bring in more business or investments. They can also pack up and leave if they feel they are not being treated well. A business can hire more employees in the state they are in—which looks good for the politicians. They can also lay off workers if they feel they are not being treated well.

And when a whole bunch of businesses band together to fight for their interests then the local and state politicians sometimes have to listen. It is one of the interesting factors that a growing number of businesses have become active in the struggle for immigration reform and for immigrants’ rights.

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