Georgia and Alabama enacted laws that penalized illegal immigrants recently. Now the two states are learning about the power of unintended consequences.
Supporters of the laws naively believed the new sanctions would drive away only illegal immigrants. In fact, Hispanics with legal status or even U.S. citizenship also are moving elsewhere.
Why leave? Wrong question. Why on earth stay? Why stay in a hostile climate that immigrants believe oppresses the entire Hispanic community? Why stay when government launches an assault that splits Latino families and opens the door to racial profiling?
The lawmakers also failed to take into account the contribution immigrant labor was making toward rebuilding areas devastated by this year's storms. Contractors in Tuscaloosa, Ala., say Hispanic workers have left and they they can't find replacements to repair the tornado damage.
Republican lawmakers assured skeptics that American workers would be only too happy to step in and take the jobs that immigrants left. Farmers in Alabama and Georgia are still waiting.
Georgia tried giving farm work to prison inmates, until they lost their appetite for backbreaking 10-hour workdays at minimum wage. If inmates were willing to work that hard, they wouldn't be in prison to begin with.
According to Georgia farm officials, $140 million in crops has been lost because of the state's labor shortages since the law began in July. The lawmakers remind you that none of these consequences was intended, of course.