Want to Crush Undocumented Immigrants? Better Look at Georgia First

March 16, 2015 7:30 am
by David Jakeman

States still thinking about passing harsh immigration laws might want to look at what’s happened in Georgia. If they do, they’ll see some industries struggling to fill their workforces, in large part because of the repressive immigration enforcement laws passed in 2011. The effects of those laws continue to reverberate throughout the state. Georgia’s experience shows that it doesn’t make much sense to get tough on immigration, even if it gives local politicians political capital for the next election.

The Immigration Laws

Back in 2011, the Georgia State Legislature rode the wave of anti-immigration sentiment, passing some of the most stringent anti-undocumented immigration laws in the nation. Hall County in Georgia added to those strict laws by taking part in a federal program that linked local law enforcement with federal enforcement to root out undocumented immigrants.

The results were devastating and scary for the immigrants in the city. One local immigration lawyer describes how Latino-looking residents would be stopped for small traffic offenses. If they didn’t have the necessary papers, they would be taken to jail and deported. The joint traffic stops led by local police and federal immigration officials spread fear and confusion among the Latino population. There was even a story of the enforcement agents stopping a taxi and asking the person in the back for their social security card.

Hall County would eventually roll back their restrictive policies, but it sent such a chill through the national immigrant community that many are still afraid to move there. The stories and experiences of those who were hurt caused many to re-evaluate the need to live in a county that was so dangerous for its immigrant population. Some Latinos that live still in Hall County say that they wouldn’t recommend living there.

Unfilled Jobs

Over the past few years, many have argued that if immigrants would be deported, then U.S. citizens could get the jobs they needed. The jobs that immigrants filled would be open to American citizens who wanted to earn a solid paycheck. Georgia provides an interesting test case for this argument, since immigrants were less than kindly shown the door by local officials. If the theory stands, there should be U.S. citizens clamoring for the newly available jobs.

Not so. In fact, some industries are having a very difficult time keeping their workforce up. One example is found at Fieldale Farms in Gainesville, Georgia. This farm works to process and pack chickens for distribution. Because so many immigrants have left Georgia, it has been difficult to keep up the necessary workforce.

The company’s president says they have to hire 100 employees a week because they have 100 quitting because the work is so difficult. U.S. citizens are not as willing to do the backbreaking work that the immigrants had performed before.1 It appears that other than some undocumented immigrants, not very many people want this work. If you look to Georgia, it becomes clear that a harsh approach to immigration has harsh effects on the economy and community.