Dr. Samuel Addy of the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Alabama offers “research services” to interested clients. Prof. Addy latest product is a report that found that HB56, Alabama’s immigration enforcement law, might reduce the state’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), by which he refers to the Gross State Product) by between $2.3 billion and $10.8 billion a year, or 1.3 to 6.2 percent of Alabama’s overall GDP. I will not venture a guess as to whether big business interests in Alabama funded this “study,” but Addy’s report certainly was not published as an academic work. It would never survive peer review. It certainly doesn’t pass the smell test.
How did Prof. Addy come up with his figures? He assumed that 40,000 to 80,000 illegal alien workers would leave the state (an occurrence that would be celebrated by Alabama workers) and that these jobs would not be filled by legal workers. He also concluded that businesses which formerly hired illegal workers would not adapt by increasing wages to attract legal workers to fill jobs vital to Alabama’s economy. The lack of illegal workers would lead to a loss of economic activity, a drop in tax collections, litigation costs, and so on. The basis for Addy’s calculation is the assumption that “less than 9 out of every 100 vacated jobs [would be] filled by unemployed legal residents and citizens.” On what does Addy base this assumption? On “anecdotal evidence,” by his own admission. So someone told Addy that Alabamians are lazy and employers in the state too greedy to pay living wages to legal workers. Maybe it was the voices in his head.
Addy ignored the fact that Alabama’s unemployment rate has dropped at more than double the rate of the national average since implementation of HB56 began (Addy seems confused about what the actual unemployment rate is or how it is calculated). He also fails to note that many of the jobs performed by illegal aliens exist only because employers have had access to a steady supply of illegal, easily exploitable workers. And he ignores data available from the Census Bureau showing that even before the Great Recession, native-born workers were doing all of the jobs he claims they refuse to do. In fact, out of 465 civilian occupations, immigrants make up the majority of workers in only four. And in these four occupations, native-born Americans make up 47 percent of the workforce. There are no jobs American are not doing or will not do. It is shameful to suggest otherwise.
Addy claims that illegal immigration has minimal, if any, costs to Alabama taxpayers, and enforcing the law costs money, so why bother. It’s better to have Alabama’s economy continue to grow, because growth is good, and everyone prospers – that’s how the “free market” operates. This fallacy is really the crux of Addy’s argument, and is the basis for almost all economic arguments in favor of continuing to allow employers to hire illegal workers. Economists (who, I remind readers, practice a social science) threaten that the GDP will go down if illegal workers are not in the economy, but they fail to acknowledge that GDP is only a measure of the total economic output of a state or nation; it is not a measure of economic prosperity, wage levels, profitability, or a gauge of the standard of living. The GDP includes the profits that accrue to employers who hire illegal aliens and the hundreds of millions of dollars that Alabama taxpayers shell out every year for the costs of illegal immigration. It also includes money spent on unemployment, welfare, and entitlement programs that are a result of Alabamians who are put out of work by illegal aliens, or who endure poverty wages.
Addy’s work is the same boilerplate “study” put out on a regular basis to attack immigration enforcement efforts, and of course it contains the same insults to American workers: that they are lazy and unwilling to work, and so employers have no choice but to continue to hire illegal workers, pay them poverty wages, offer no benefits, and subject them to adverse working conditions. It is outrageous that the University of Alabama would allow its imprimatur on a report that justifies such practices and recommends that they continue. Addy is not calling for amnesty, or a workable guest worker program, or higher wages, better treatment for workers, etc. He argues instead that Alabama’s economy depends on Alabamians being pushed out of the labor market by illegal aliens and he opposes HB56 because it would curtail this.