Alabama Immigration Law Hurting Small Businesses

Alabama Immigration Law Hurting Small Businesses

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ALBERTVILLE, Alabama -- La Tienda del Sol, a neighborhood market, occupies almost the entire corner of Main Avenue in downtown Albertville. The national flags of Guatemala and Mexico hang in the window, inviting customers to enter. Yet the store is completely empty, and its owner, a Dominican who opened the store 15 years ago, is considering a move out of state.

"The damage is already done," says Jose Contreras, 41, over a counter of freshly baked Mexican-style breads. "We're leaving. There’s nothing left for me here. I’ll have to leave my home, leave everything. There’s no way I’m going to work at a poultry processing plant."

The exodus of Latino immigrants who are choosing to leave the state with their families for fear of Alabama’s HB56 law is not only being felt in the chicken processing plants that abound in this city, but in the pockets of small shopkeepers who have lost their base of consumers.

HB56, considered the toughest piece of anti-immigrant legislation in the nation, was upheld by Federal Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn, last week. The law makes it a state crime to be without legal documents and requires schools to inquire about the immigration status of parents enrolling their children.

"I had (regular) customers who came throughout the day, on their lunch hour, and they don’t come now," laments Maria Gonzalez, a restaurant owner who requested not to be identified for fear of the police. "I'm a single mom. My family depends on me."

Gonzalez, a native of Guanajuato, Mexico, invested all her savings in a small restaurant that is now completely empty. Two pots filled with beef broth sitting in the kitchen will likely be discarded, said Gonzalez, who has already lost half of her income.

"In Mexico, they are killing people by kidnapping. I’m scared to go back," she laments.

These days, Gonzalez chooses to walk to her restaurant rather than drive, to avoid the checkpoints that police have set up across Albertville in an effort to fine unlicensed drivers.

According to James Smith, the deputy chief of police in Albertsville, the checkpoints are necessary to ensure public security and he acknowledges that this has resulted in the confiscation of unlicensed vehicles. With the passage of HB56, someone without identification now runs the risk of being arrested and questioned about their immigration status, he said.

Smith said his department of 42 officers hasn’t yet received any training, which he admitted puts his force between a rock and a hard place since HB 56 holds them accountable for implementing the new law.

“I’ve been robbed here at the restaurant and also once at my house, but police aren’t interested in investigating those [crimes],” Gonzalez says.

The same problems are being felt at another restaurant, not far from the one Gonzalez owns.

“What happens is, if we earn $70 or $80 a day, that’s not enough to pay [the bills]," says Pascual Pedro, a Guatemalan from Huehuetenango who owns Taqueria La Tienda and Maya. "We still need to pay for the utilities and the rent, but there’s no business."

Pedro, who owns another restaurant, says [the law] will eventually cause a chain reaction that will soon also affect food suppliers and makers of products that cater to business.

Not all small business owners who are suffering from the departure of immigrants are Latinos. John Henley has been selling fruit and vegetables since 1975 and in recent years immigrants working in chicken processing plants in Albertville have become his major customers.

“We miss them," says Henley, whose sales have suffered a 20 percent decline in recent days. "We also need someone to collect the produce. Here it’s full of lazy people who do not want to work and live on food stamps."

Henley, 85, believes that popular support for HB56 in Alabama has more to do with opposing a federal government identified with a black president, than it does with the issue of immigration itself.

"I think they don’t have the slightest idea what the reality is," Henley said of the elected officials.

"I don’t think we should ask everyone to leave," says Carolyn Pritchett, a 69-year-old retiree who was buying some fruits. Her eyes filled with tears as she said she planned to write to her state politicians, to slow the immigration bill.


 

Comments

 
Anonymous

Posted Oct 8 2011

As the illegals leave the state eventually citizens will get back to working which will lead to increased business. We just have to be patient.

Anonymous

Posted Oct 8 2011

Son unos rasistas , pobre gente

Anonymous

Posted Oct 9 2011

And the poulhtry processing plant? Is it still in business since losing its illegal work force? Are the local blacks and whites lining up to get the jobs, or are they too lazy to work? There's so much much more that should be reported here instead of just doing a sob story about illegals who don't have illegals to sell to anymore. Too bad these business owners hung Spanish names on thir businesses to appeal only to the Guatemalan, Mexican, or whatever trade instead of the population in general. Back home in Huehetenango Pasqual Pedro would never open a soul food restaurant and call it Chtlin Corner Cafe because he woul never see a Spanish or dalect speaking customer, and certainly no blacks. Same thing goes in the U.S. when they paint themselves into a corner and go only for the illegal segment of the market. If they lose their businesses they only have themselves to blame. Someone will write to say I'm racist, I'm sure, so let me say right now that I live in Gutemala with my Guatemalan wife. My business name is in Spanish and we work in Spanish. There are plenty of opportunities in Guatemala for hard working people like Pasqual Pedro.

Anonymous

Posted Oct 9 2011

Who are the racists here? Would Pasqual Pedro open a restaurant in Huehuetenango and call it The Soul Food Shack? I don't think so. He painted himself into a corner by marketing to illegals and now he's crying foul, as is Jose. I live in Guatemala with my Guatemalan wife and my business name is Spanish. I sell products to Spanish speaking clients and I won't go broke if I lose my Englih language customers. I can only hope these people saved enough money to get home on because I doubt that the stte of Alabama is going to buy them a plane ticket. The polutry processing plant had better look for legal workers now. If there aren't any then they should also move south of the border, set up a plant, and export their products to the U.S.

Anonymous

Posted Oct 9 2011

If I as an American citizen get pulled over and I cannot produce a valid drivers licence, I will suffer the consecuences. Fines, jail time, I don't know. Why are people espousing that illigal immigrants can drive without a valid drivers licence and I can"t.

This whole thing has gotten out of hand. When Reagan legalized over 1,000,000 illligals in 86', there should have been legislation in place to confront the problem. Now, they say there are over 14,000,000 illigals, many driving without a valid drivers licence and many not knowing the basic rules of the road. The places where many of them come from by tradition a drivers licence is bought, nobody passes a test for a licence.

If rules are to be applied to me, then the same rules should be applied to all. Besides, what can the Federal Govt. not understand about the word "illligal immigrant".?? You people should see the hassle many of us go through at legal ports of entry because some of us are married to foreigners (latin types). The basic hassle coming from naturalized latins hassling other latins. And yet illigal immigrants are supposed to have rights???? I just do not understand.

Anonymous

Posted Oct 9 2011

If I as an American citizen get pulled over and I cannot produce a valid drivers licence, I will suffer the consecuences. Fines, jail time, I don't know. Why are people espousing that illigal immigrants can drive without a valid drivers licence and I can"t.

This whole thing has gotten out of hand. When Reagan legalized over 1,000,000 illligals in 86', there should have been legislation in place to confront the problem. Now, they say there are over 14,000,000 illigals, many driving without a valid drivers licence and many not knowing the basic rules of the road. The places where many of them come from by tradition a drivers licence is bought, nobody passes a test for a licence.

If rules are to be applied to me, then the same rules should be applied to all. Besides, what can the Federal Govt. not understand about the word "illligal immigrant".?? You people should see the hassle many of us go through at legal ports of entry because some of us are married to foreigners (latin types). The basic hassle coming from naturalized latins hassling other latins. And yet illigal immigrants are supposed to have rights???? I just do not understand.

Anonymous

Posted Oct 9 2011

If I as an American citizen get pulled over and I cannot produce a valid drivers licence, I will suffer the consecuences. Fines, jail time, I don't know. Why are people espousing that illigal immigrants can drive without a valid drivers licence and I can"t.

This whole thing has gotten out of hand. When Reagan legalized over 1,000,000 illligals in 86', there should have been legislation in place to confront the problem. Now, they say there are over 14,000,000 illigals, many driving without a valid drivers licence and many not knowing the basic rules of the road. The places where many of them come from by tradition a drivers licence is bought, nobody passes a test for a licence.

If rules are to be applied to me, then the same rules should be applied to all. Besides, what can the Federal Govt. not understand about the word "illligal immigrant".?? You people should see the hassle many of us go through at legal ports of entry because some of us are married to foreigners (latin types). The basic hassle coming from naturalized latins hassling other latins. And yet illigal immigrants are supposed to have rights???? I just do not understand.

Anonymous

Posted Oct 11 2011

adapt your business or shut down

Anonymous

Posted Nov 15 2011

People don't have the time or money to be patient. Who are you fooling?!

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