Commentary: Anti-immigration laws prove to be counter-productive, harmful

If nothing else, the hardline immigration laws passed by some states recently may once again demonstrate the wisdom of an old adage: Be careful what you wish for.

From Arizona to California to our neighboring state of Georgia, a host of moderates and conservatives are lamenting the harmful, counter-productive effects of these laws.

Mayor Paul Bridges of the small farming community of Uvalda, Ga., could have been speaking for counterparts all over the country last week when he pleaded with a Senate panel for passage of an immigration reform bill. The draconian law passed in Georgia in lieu of action by Congress, he said, “will only devastate our local economies.”

Georgia’s farm workers are in the crosshairs of a new law that gives local police expanded powers to enforce immigration laws, and also targets anyone who gives undocumented immigrants a helping hand. These workers are critical to the state’s $6.5 billion agricultural economy, but many have chosen to look for work elsewhere. Though the law remains suspended due to a lawsuit, the Georgia Agribusiness Council reports that farms have already lost $300 million due to a lack of workers and healthy crops have been left to rot in the field.

“This law isn’t immigration reform,” the mayor complained. “This law is government intrusion of the worst kind. It threatens our economy. It threatens our way of life. And it simply makes no sense.” And that’s the sworn testimony of a self-described “conservative Republican mayor” from Georgia.

The persistent myth that Americans are eager to replace immigrant workers, legal or not, is proving to be just that — a myth. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports farmers are finding that “replacing immigrant workers with native-born workers isn’t easy; many new workers leave after only a day or two.”

To read the complete editorial, visit www.miamiherald.com.