Alabama’s immigration ID law will cost the state 70,000 to 140,000 direct and indirect jobs annually and could put a dent of $2.3 billion to $10.8 billion in the state’s GDP.
So says a report issued Jan. 30 by the University of Alabama’s Center for Business and Economic Research.
Mississippi’s is making a far different calculation. Gov. Phil Bryant said at a press conference last week that he expects immigration reform in Mississippi will save the state $25 million a year in costs related to social services, education and law enforcement.
Bryant said he did the calculation in 2006 during his time as state auditor and based his findings on an assumed undocumented migrant population in the state of 49,000 people. He said his office reached the $25 million figure after deducting income tax withholdings collected from the unauthorized workers.
Bryant concedes, however, that he has not analyzed the economic impact to agriculture of an Alabama-style immigration bill he has endorsed for Mississippi. He said he has not looked into he costs because he does not think Mississippi farmers are using undocumented workers.
The head of the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federal, Randy Knight, put the costs to the state’s agricultural sector in the “hundreds of millions” of dollars over an extended time.
Alcorn State University agriculture economist Magid Dagher puts the impact closer to the “tens of millions” of dollars over time. More immediately, the uncertainty over whether sufficient labor will be available could cause growers of specialty crops such as fruits and vegetables to reduce the acreage they will plant, said Dagher, director of the Mississippi Small Farm Development Center at Alcorn.
Another ag economist, Ken Hood of the Mississippi State University Agriculture Extension Service, said Mississippi’s economic hit should be limited because the bulk of its agriculture is in row crops, rather than specialty crops. Row crops are far less dependent on migrant labor for harvesting, he said.
The Alabama study headed by center director Dr. Samuel Addy looked at the economic consequences of tens of thousands of migrants leaving the state following last year’s adoption of a stringent immigrant identification papers law.
Major assumptions of the study are that the jobs vacated by unauthorized immigrant workers were primarily in agriculture, construction, lodging and food and beverage services. The study assumes that about 40,000 to 80,000 workers earning from $15,000 to $35,000 annually have left Alabama and that undocumented immigrant workers on average send 20 percent of their earnings to their home countries.
In addition to job losses and drops in economic activity, the departures also will cost the state from $56.7 million to $264.5 million in state income and sales tax collections, and reductions in local sales tax collections of $20 million to $93 million.
“Hence, the law is costly to the state in an economic sense even if only the reduction in aggregate demand is considered,” Addy said in the report.