Sunday, February 03, 2008

One more reason among many I don't live in Oklahoma

A regular commenter points to this Houston Chronicle story about in-country migrations caused by a new Oklahoma law criminalizing employers who hire illegal immigrants to say that anti-immigration laws "work" ("Laws aimed at hiring illegal workers drive many to Texas," Feb. 3).

My first thought: Sure, you can get them to leave Oklahoma! All that shows is that many immigrants possess intelligence, forethought, and good common sense. (I was surprised more of you in last week's sidebar poll didn't support my idea of a wall along the Red River.)

But instead of some mass awakening among Mexican emigres, (How do you say, "Oh my God, I moved from beautiful Mexico to dreary Oklahoma, on purpose - I'm a moron!" in Spanish?), the short-term migration resulted from a new statute, along with a similar one in Arizona. Reports the Chronicle:
few numbers are available because illegal residents are difficult to track, community activists say immigrants have arrived in Houston and Dallas in recent months, and they expect hundreds more families to relocate to the Bayou City soon.

''They're really tightening the screws," said Mario Ortiz, an undocumented Mexican worker who came to Houston after leaving Phoenix last year. ''There have been a lot coming — it could be 100 a day."

The growing exodus is the result of dozens of new state and local laws aimed at curbing illegal immigration. The two toughest measures are in Oklahoma and Arizona.

The Oklahoma statute, which took effect in November, makes it a crime to transport, harbor or hire illegal immigrants. Effective Jan. 1, the Arizona law suspends the business license of employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers. On a second offense, the license is revoked.

So what's been the result? Is everyone headed back to Mexico? Don't bet on it.

As the implications of laws in other states play out, Hubbard, the Mexican consul from Dallas, doubts many immigrants will go back to Mexico.

'I think they will relocate. They will at least give it one more try," Hubbard said. ''It's very difficult to cross the border, and expensive, too."

So this is just squeezing the balloon, but not helping solve the national immigration problem in the least. In fact, it makes it harder to solve by driving immigrants further underground.

This is short-sighted NIMBYism at the statewide level. From an economic perspective, these states are cutting off their own nose to spite their face:
In Oklahoma, one builder estimated that 30 percent of the Hispanic work force left Tulsa. Reports out of Arizona indicate that several restaurants have closed in Phoenix because of a shortage of workers, and vacancies at apartment complexes are increasing, in part because of departing immigrants. ...

The flight from Oklahoma began the month before the new law known as House Bill 1804 took effect, business leaders in Oklahoma say. In Tulsa, the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has estimated that 15,000 to 25,000 illegal immigrants have left the area.

''Thirty percent of our Hispanic labor force left Tulsa — it was a huge hit, and it was almost overnight," said Greg Simmons, owner of Simmons Homes, Tulsa's largest home builder.

Based on his conversations with subcontractors, Simmons said they went to Texas and Kansas or returned to Mexico.

Jose Alfonso, pastor of the Cornerstone Hispanic Church in Tulsa, said 15 percent of the congregation's 425 members have left for Texas or California.

''It's been a very difficult situation for our church and the Hispanic community," said Alfonso, whose church is one of several who are challenging the law in federal court.

Business leaders say local police in Tulsa have mounted a campaign to target immigrants and have deported many after they were arrested for minor traffic offenses.

''I think we swung the pendulum too far; we're hurting people, the immigrant families, and we're going to hurt the economy," said Mike Means, executive vice president of the Oklahoma State Homebuilders Association, which has 3,600 members across the state. ...

''There's been a tremendous impact in Oklahoma City," Castillo said. "We've had several companies close shop and leave the state. Banks have called us and say they're closing 30 accounts per week."

So, companies closing, worker shortages, shuttered restaurants, a declining tax base, crippling the construction trades just as a recession looms: Those Okies are a brilliant bunch, aren't they? Hmmmm, yeah, give us some of that! (/sarcasm).

Though it sounds like a lot of people, in the scheme of things 15-25,000 people is a drop in the bucket compared to an estimated 1.6 million illegal immigrants in Texas statewide.

You notice the migration took place largely prior to the law's enforcement, not as a result of it. For those who stayed behind, and there are still plenty of undocumented Mexicans in Oklahoma and Arizona, it remains to be seen how and how often these statutes will really be enforced. Once Oklahoma and Arizona's laws have been in place for a while, and those who stayed figure out how to work around them, I bet these short-term migrations will even out.

Bottom line: It's way too early to say these laws "work." In fact, initial press coverage amounts to a list of resulting harms. No one quoted in the article thought they benefited from what happened. I'd love to hear somebody make the case that there has been any positive result.

Cui bono? Who benefits?

BLOGVERSATION: At Okiedoke, Mike takes umbrage at my depiction of Okiedom, declaring that the main benefit of the new law may be pissing off Texans. I replied in the comments.

UPDATE: See the lawsuit filed against the new law (pdf) by the Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce, one more bit of evidence that it's difficult to be both anti-immigrant and pro-business.


Anonymous said...

The immigrants are voting with their feet. Let Oklahoma and Arizona get the comeuppances they have earned.

If I were one of the businessmen routinely employing illegals, it would make sense for me to back this anti-immigration law -- provided I paid off the cops to look the other way in my case, and provided I tipped off the cops to my business rivals employing illegals. Getting the cops to do my dirty work is a smart business practice.

Anonymous said...

My first thought: Sure, you can get them to leave Oklahoma!

Probably the smartest thing you've ever posted.

Anonymous said...

Grits posting something smart more like smart ass!


Gritsforbreakfast said...

Always a ray of sunshine, aren't you, Joe?

Unknown said...

Paying off cops to look the other way? I thought that the payment was informing on other employers. Isn't that what snitching is all about: you break the law - but help cops find other criminals. They get screwed and you get away with criminal activity.

Anonymous said...

The Rev. from Tulia has to put in his two bits worth. (How much it's worth is in the mind of the readers.) Somewhere in Leviticus it says, "You shall treat the alien among you as a citizen." Now, of course in Leviticus it also says you should put homosexuals and adulterers to death, and that you should not wear a garment made of two kinds of cloth, you should not sow your field with two different kinds of seeds, etc. etc. So I do not advocate making Old Testament law into our law (as some "christian" restorationists would do), but I think this admonition concerning aliens is worth listening to in order to moderate some of the vicious anti-immigrant talk and behavior. This admonition is in the Spirit of Christ.

Charles Kiker, Tulia

Anonymous said...

I am a liberal and registered dem, but i have never understood the desire by my compatriots to have essentially open borders.

If we wanna have a boarder, then have a boarder and if only citizens and registered aliens have a right to be here, then what is wrong with kicking out those who dont have a right to be here?

I guess i have never heard a really good reason for allowing illegal immigration to continue as is, mostly the reasons are based on why its bad to send them back.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

roycommi - nobody wants "illegal immigration to continue," at least not on this blog. I'd like to give amnesty and expand LEGAL immigration levels to more closely match labor demand.

As for "why," the main reason IMO is to improve security. See the argument here.

Anonymous said...

One positive thing resulting from the Oklahoma law is pissing off Texans like you.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Nobody's pissed, Oakman, learn to take a joke!

Anonymous said...

Grits, sometimes I wonder why you put up with some of us posters.

Anonymous said...

The bottom line is that people come across the border for jobs. They come because there are jobs available. Ergo, if there were no jobs available, they would not come.

There are jobs available because the domestic employment base cannot support the demand. Scott, you are right, what we need is a reasonable immigration policy.

As for quotes from the OT - it is not just in Leviticus, but throughout Deuteronomy as well that calls for hospitality to outsiders. Of course, then we have that pesky fellow named Yeshua who made the outrageous claim that we should love our neighbors as ourselves. We need to kill rabblerousers like that! Oh, wait, the Romans did.

Anonymous said...

I agree that we need a better immigration solution, but I DO NOT feel bad in the least that a few construction companies lost their workforce (sub-prime bubble anyone?), and some restaurants had to close. Gee, I'm glad we don't have an obesity epidemic in America to worry about.

This could all be a good thing.

Anonymous said...

I would sure like to see some data. The stories I read in the paper were glaringly unsubstantiated.

We've fallen for these kinds of rumors too many times before. These kind of hack news stories pander to our fears and raise unnecessary alarm.

Then innocents get hurt.

Bill Baumbach

Anonymous said...

Employing illegal aliens is already against federal law. Oklahoma is only enforcing through a different means what is already the law in all 50 states. If amnesty were the solution then the amnesty in 1986 would have solved the problem. Are we going to give them amnesty again in 2028, 2048, 2068 and every 20 years until the end of time? Leaving illegals in this country is not the answer either. It makes criminals of businesses who use cheap labor to compete with other companies who use cheap illegal labor in the first place.

Anonymous said...

press 1 for grits in english!

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Amnesty in 1986 didn't solve the problem because we failed to expand immigration quotas, so the problem replicated itself. For a long-term solution, you have to give amnesty, AND allow more people in annually. Otherwise you just generate a new backlog.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you, Scott, but it goes far deeper than most people care to admit. The fact is that folks have been migrating back and forth across what is now the border since long before there was either a Texas or a United States. Furthermore, employers who employ illegal aliens routinely take advantage of the fact that these employees have no recourse against unfair treatment.