Alabama’s New Immigration Law Meets The Law Of Unintended Consequences

Just as Georgia’s new immigration law caused a crisis in the farm industry as migrant workers fled the state, a similar statute in Alabama is having a similar impact in Alabama:

When Tuscaloosa, Alabama, begins rebuilding more than 7,200 homes and businesses leveled by an April 27 tornado, it may find itself missing a workforce capable of putting the city together again.

That’s what Ever Duarte, head of the city’s Hispanic soccer league, said after losing a third of his teams in a week. Tuscaloosa County’s 6,000-strong Hispanic population –including roofers, Sheetrockers, concrete pourers, framers, landscapers and laborers — is disappearing, he said, before a law cracking down on illegal immigrants takes effect.

“They’re leaving now, right now,” Duarte, 36, said during a pause in a pick-up soccer game last week in a neighborhood gym. “I know people who are packing up tonight. They don’t want to wait to see what happens. It started last week. Our league had 12 teams the week before that. Last week, it was eight.”

It’s more than just weekend soccer leagues that are being impacted, though:

“Hispanics, documented and undocumented, dominate anything to do with masonry, concrete, framing, roofing, and landscaping,” said Bob McNelly, a contractor with Nash-McCraw Properties, during an interview at a coffee shop near a destroyed gas station and bank. “There are very few subcontractors I work with that don’t have a Hispanic workforce.”

The city of 90,000 imposed a moratorium on major reconstruction that ends Aug. 8 to enable it to plan its remaking. The rebuilding, McNelly said, will be harder and more expensive without them:

“It’s not the pay rate. It’s the fact that they work harder than anyone. It’s the work ethic.”

So thanks to this law, a highly skilled workforce is getting ready to disappear and the construction industry in Alabama, which could use all the skilled labor it could get right about now, is about to face a labor shortage. Nice work there guys.


FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, US Politics, , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Chad S says:

    I have a feeling that Alabama is begging the Feds to sue them over this law to let them off the hook.

  2. superdestroyer says:

    Are you really going to argue that no American citizen is capable of remodeling a home, replacing gypsum wall board, or framcing a building? Is the U.S. so incapable of finding anyone capable of doing basic contruction work that it needs to import all of its construction workers.

    With a double digit unemployment rate, there are plenty of people capable of doing the work. My Americans just do not want to pack 20 people into a 2 bedroom house to be able to work in such industries. Maybe Americans are at a competitive disadvantage because Americans do not steal identities, cheat of their taxes, or scam Mediciad in order to compete in the workplace.

    If American cannot produce its own construction workers, there is no reason for the U.S. to even exist.

  3. Stacy says:

    So perhaps the 9.1% unemployed in our own country will step up? Oh no, wait, blue collar jobs are beneath them.

  4. Don’t ask me superdestroyer, ask the contractors in Alabama who have been trying to fill these positions.

  5. EddieInCA says:

    The law in both Georgia and Alabama is having exactly it’s intended consequences: Getting rid of brown people from the state.

    Problem is that those brown people tend to work harder, longer, and for less wages than white people – which leads to lower prices paid by white people for their products and services. Well… I guess we’ll just have to figure out how to pay more for everything from gardening services to vegetables to fruits to chicken to home remodeling and construction.

    That won’t hurt at all. After all, with 9.1% unemployment, should be easy for fill those jobs.

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    It’s not the pay rate.

    It is the pay rate. AL is a right to work state and as such their wages are much lower.

    “Hispanics, documented and undocumented, dominate anything to do with masonry, concrete, framing, roofing,

    We have more than a few hispanics as well, but they do not begin to “dominate” the trades. Up here in MO, both union and nonunion are paid an honest days wage for an honest days work.

  7. whatever says:

    There are Americans willing to work but we will not work for slave wages. Republicans support modern day slavery.

  8. SteveP says:

    The reason contractors are having a hard time finding skilled American labor is because Americans were run out of the trades years ago. Contractors hired illegals to do the work for half the pay and now Americans now longer have those trade skills. Contractors didn’t care what damage they were doing to the country as long as they could put more money in their pockets and they’re now reaping what they have sown.
    I’m a plumber (one of the few trades where an American can still find work) and I’ve worked in commercial construction for over 25 years and I’ve seen it first hand. Both of my brothers were framers but they had to leave the trade because an American can’t find a job as a framer any more. I have a lot of friends who have left the construction industry because of what the contractors have done to the trades. I’m currently working on getting out myself.
    I applaud Alabama and I hope more states do likewise. Americans should be able to find work in America. If Mexicans need work they need to fix their own POS country.

  9. john personna says:

    Shrug. We can wait for equilibrium, which will probably be less construction done, but with higher wages …

  10. Herb says:

    Hispanic does not mean Mexican. Hispanic does not mean illegal. It’s simply a fact in this country that not all Hispanics are immigrants.

    This article seems to suggest that a law targeting illegal immigrants has ended up targeting Hispanics, which is the one of the main criticisms of these kinds of laws. That’s a problem.

  11. legion says:

    You can’t wave a Magic Jobs Wand and make thousands of trained, skilled workers suddenly appear in a needy market. One of the reasons the housing crash devastated our economy is that the US workforce is now much lees mobile than it used to be. Even if you’re willing & able to do the work, you can’t move to where the jobs are because you can’t sell the house you’re living in now. And if you just walk away from the whole mortgage, you won’t have the credit to get another place to live wherever you do wind up.

    Also, Superdestroyer?

    Maybe Americans are at a competitive disadvantage because Americans do not steal identities, cheat of their taxes, or scam Mediciad in order to compete in the workplace.

    You’re a bigot. And a moron. And a colossal dick. And completely wrong about pretty much everything.

  12. EddieInCA says:

    Maybe Americans are at a competitive disadvantage because Americans do not steal identities, cheat of their taxes, or scam Mediciad in order to compete in the workplace.

    Bernie Madoff
    Michael Milken
    Allan Sanford

    Some Americans do much worse.

  13. Nikki says:

    I applaud Alabama and I hope more states do likewise. Americans should be able to find work in America. If Mexicans need work they need to fix their own POS

    I don’t understand your comment. The contractors drove wages down and forced skilled American labor out of the market by hiring illegals, but somehow the illegals are to blame?

  14. mattb says:

    Actually Nikki, let’s take it an honest step forward:

    The contractors drove wages down and forced skilled American labor out of the market by hiring illegals, but somehow the illegals are to blame?

    Buyers (in particular institutional buyers) drove down prices, which in turn drove down margins, which in turn drove down wages. As Charles A reminded on another thread, the goal of business is to make money for the owners/stakeholders.

    In the case of Walmart*, and many public institutions like school districts, jobs often go to the lowest bidder (Walmart has pioneered contract by reverse online auction — contractors compete for who can offer the job at the lowest price).

    Can’t see anything possibly going wrong with that model in terms of safety or ensuring that you’re buying the best possible work or supporting legal employment.

    * – seriously, especially with newer Walmarts, you could not believe the horror stories about shoddy wiring (especially for security cams). And to be clear, this isn’t just Walmart, I’m pretty sure most large institutions are using similar systems.

  15. Tsar Nicholas says:

    In addition to the law of unintended consequences this is Exhibit Z to the law of being careful what you wish for as you just might get it. Sadly, however, the primary irony here is that the Pat Buchanans of the world won’t be able even to grasp the irony.

    Yes, we’re a sovereign country and borders do matter and should be enforced. But the facts on the ground are that the economy has become over the past 30 years dependent on cheap, illegal labor and no number of editorials in National Review will change that fact.

    We need some form of amnesty/safe harbor, in addition to strict border control. This also has to be done at the federal level, as opposed to piecemeal and patchwork by the individual states.

  16. Babyboomer1960 says:

    @SteveP: I applaud you for your courage to speak out and tell your story. Too often, as you can even tell in this topic thread, the narrative is hijacked by some talking point poster child of the left. Most comments put the ILLEGAL immigrants in the light of being the benign victims, instead of the pernicious intruders that they are. Alabama, like Georgia and the rest of the country, are feeling the consequences of the failure of the Federal Government to live up to its responsibility over the past several decades and ENFORCE existing Immigration Laws. You can call us what you want, but there reaches a point where the individual States must take a stand and do what needs to be done…

    If the opponents of HB87 in Georgia or any similar laws in other states really believed in the primacy of the rule of law, then they would agree that breaking the law to arrive in the United States in equally unconscionable, wouldn’t they? Or is it simply a matter of picking and choosing WHICH laws should be obeyed? Like obtaining fraudulent Social Numbers to gain employment illegally. Or stealing the identities of others to fake residency and credit history. Or driving drunk with a fake driver’s license. Or moving kilos of drugs over the border and into our cities.

    Trotting out sad and fearful migrant workers in front of the cameras for all to see provides a poignant narrative of the humanity of it all, but it hardly touches the surface of the myriads of negative consequences that illegal immigration itself has set into motion.  

    What part of “ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION” don’t you understand? Yes – it’s the purview of the Federal Government to enforce/secure our borders. They have REFUSED to do so for well over a decade. Meanwhile, individual states are being burdened by accelerating social costs by a group of people who sneaked in and now are demanding their “fair share” of the American Dream. I’m sure all those tens of thousands of people around the world who are paying good money, filling out paperwork, and playing by the rules to get here are really excited to see the reward for their honesty…

    Georgia’s actions haven’t been taken lightly or out of a desire to promote a divisive racist policy. Rather, it’s in response to watching themselves and their neighbors being undercut in the labor force in the Service Industry, Construction Sector, Manufacturing, Trade Sector and virtually everywhere else in the labor pool INCLUDING the migrant Agricultural Workers who, for reasons unknown to me, seem to be the only ones being held up as poster children from what’s wrong with HB87. To add insult to injury, study after study has shown that 10s of Billions of dollars earned by the illegal immigrant workers are wired “back home” every year, thus decimating the local US economy by not continuing to circulate locally as it should. The fact that the money is wired “back home” tends to show where these groups of peoples’ allegiance really lies, doesn’t it?

    Add to that the inevitable small group from within the ILLEGAL immigrant population who engage in criminal activity and are straining our justice and penal systems. Similar strains are being felt in our education systems just as they are seeing sharp drops in revenues and resources due to the economic downturn. The impact on our social “safety net” systems are equally negatively impacted. I have no problem with those in need turning to these programs, but I would like some degree of confidence that the ILLEGAL immigrant worker is paying in to these programs, just like I am. I see absolutely no evidence that this is the case.

    Georgians and Americans must do whatever it takes to protect and defend our rights as Americans without depriving the rights of others. But seriously, to use one’s decision to come to this country illegally as a shield to protect them from the law is truly Orwellian in its approach…

    It’s time that Georgia, Arizona, Ohio, Alabama and all the other states and municipalities that are standing up for themselves share a little “tough love” with those who have taken advantage of our goodwill over the years. We also need to distribute this “tough love” to the business community who has as much as admitted that it’s been operating illegally lo these many years as well. They need to become a part of the solution, and stop being part of the problem.

    America has always been and will continue to be welcoming of LEGAL immigrants from around the world. It’s also always been a nation that has operated under the rule of law being superior to the whims of men. To be consistent to these values, Georgia and all the others who are fighting for these values must move forward to fill in the gap that has been left by what I consider to be a traitorous Federal Government when it comes to the issue of Border Security and Immigration Enforcement. I strongly support Georgia’s Tough New Anti-ILLEGAL Immigration Enforcement measure known as HB87 as well as all those states and municipalities who are putting forth similar efforts!

  17. Babyboomer1960 says:


    Right out of the gate, your premise was flawed. I’ve been living in GA since 1982 and I’m very aware of what’s going on in the state. Despite what Reuters, the AP, and the AJC may say, I’m still waiting for the “agricultural crisis” to hit my local supermarket. In fact, I know of six people who are going down to Unadilla this week to help pick crops. It’s 95+ degrees out, they’re white, and eager to work picking crops at $8.25 per hour. Personally, I wouldn’t last 10 minutes, but I have confidence in these individuals. They are not (all) probationers, but they all are very eager to have gainful employment. They don’t want to be on “Obamadole” as they call it. You can call the citizens of Georgia whatever you want but, to quote Bill Clinton, “It doesn’t matter what people call you… It’s what you answer to…”

    Stop stooping to the parochial tut-tutting of the people who “know better” about how to proceed in “polite society.” Georgians have always taken care of themselves and will continue to as far as possible. We never needed Yankees coming down here to run our affairs and we don’t cotton to feelgood naysayers…