If you want to get a glimpse of the consequences for the country should the nativists ever gain control of the nation's immigration apparatus, take a look at what happens when cities try to drive out Latinos by passing ordinances intended to drive them out.
The folks in Riverside, New Jersey, have found out:
- A little more than a year ago, the Township Committee in this faded factory town became the first municipality in New Jersey to enact legislation penalizing anyone who employed or rented to an illegal immigrant.
Within months, hundreds, if not thousands, of recent immigrants from Brazil and other Latin American countries had fled. The noise, crowding and traffic that had accompanied their arrival over the past decade abated.
The law had worked. Perhaps, some said, too well.
With the departure of so many people, the local economy suffered. Hair salons, restaurants and corner shops that catered to the immigrants saw business plummet; several closed. Once-boarded-up storefronts downtown were boarded up again.
Meanwhile, the town was hit with two lawsuits challenging the law. Legal bills began to pile up, straining the town’s already tight budget. Suddenly, many people — including some who originally favored the law — started having second thoughts.
So last week, the town rescinded the ordinance, joining a small but growing list of municipalities nationwide that have begun rethinking such laws as their legal and economic consequences have become clearer.
“I don’t think people knew there would be such an economic burden,” said Mayor George Conard, who voted for the original ordinance. “A lot of people did not look three years out.”
Here's a reality check for all those folks up in arms about Latinos "taking away jobs": the unemployment rate has been at about 4 percent -- a low number by any reckoning -- during the same period we've seen the surge in immigration, legal and illegal, from Latin America. That tells us that not only are Latinos filling necessary economic niches, they're contributing significantly to the economic growth we've seen in that same time.
And if we were to fall prey to the nativists' agenda -- which is nothing less than to ship out all 12 million illegal immigrants -- the nation would suffer. Just as small cities that drive out their immigrant workforce suffer significant economic downturns, the same would happen to the U.S. on a larger scale. Immigrant labor, and a vibrant immigrant workforce, is one of the keys to a healthy economic future; it's what will enable us to continue to compete in a global economy.
This is why amnesty makes sense. Failing to fix our broken immigration system is a sure recipe for economic disaster -- as is listening to bigoted right-wing cant.