Anti-Immigrant Laws Are Being Used as a Smoke Screen

Anti-Immigrant Laws Are Being Used as a Smoke Screen

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – It's no mystery that since the beginning of the recession the number one topic on voters’ minds has been job creation. But what happens when politicians fail miserably in reaching this goal? For North Carolina legislator Frank Iler, the answer is simple: create a smoke screen of anti-immigrant laws.

Iler was elected in 2010 to the State House of Representatives for District 17, Brunswick County. During his election campaign, Iler supported a plan called ‘100 Days That Will Change North Carolina.’ This document stated that if Republicans won the elections, within three months, they would eliminate burdensome restrictions on private enterprise, which would generate more jobs.

Election time came and Republican legislators won the majority in the State House of Representatives for the first time in over a century. The 100 days came and went. Today, almost a year later, unemployment levels have remained almost unchanged in North Carolina. According to the Employment Security Commission, the unemployment rate in September 2010 was 10 percent. A year later, it stands at 10.5 percent.

The second of the 10 points listed in the plan ‘100 Days That Will Change North Carolina’ said that they would look for ways to reduce taxes in order to make this a more competitive state and attract investment from large companies. For Congressman Iler, this was a crucial point given that Continental had plans to invest $500 million to build a new plant in his county of Brunswick.

Three weeks ago, Continental announced that its new plant would not be built in Iler's county after all; it will not even be built in North Carolina. The multi-million dollar investment, which will generate an estimated 1,700 jobs, will be built in South Carolina.

How do you remedy this embarrassing situation? Iler has a strategy: Use controversy as a distraction. The Republican legislator is heading a new committee in the House of Representatives with the goal of drafting anti-immigrant laws.

“My personal opinion is that we need to make North Carolina as unwelcome for any illegal alien from wherever they come from,” Iler told reporters from Star News a week after Continental's announcement.

Coincidence? According to Iler, this is a priority and the committee's first meeting is scheduled for early December. The committee of nine individuals (six Republicans and three Democrats) will review laws and programs related to immigration in the state and will propose new anti-immigrant laws to the General Assembly.

This tactic is not new, according to a report by the New York-based The Americas Society, which analyzed 53 cities that imposed local laws to “combat” undocumented immigrants between 2006 and 2008.

The study's conclusion was that these kinds of laws were more common in places with high rates of poverty and unemployment.

In cities like Payson, Ariz., Bellaire, Ohio and Athens, Ala., there are fewer workers in general, both immigrant and non-immigrant, but the economic impact from the anti-immigrant ordinances has been negative.

Instead of wasting time with smoke screens, state Congressman Iler should be concentrating on finding ways to generate more jobs. The numbers don't lie. Ask farmers in Arizona, Georgia or Alabama if their anti-immigrant laws have helped improve their economies.

Diego Barahona is editor of La Noticia Newspaper in Charlotte, N.C.