Thursday, October 6, 2011

Migrants Flee Alabama. Welcomed in Lugano, Switzerland

Filed under: Labor / Unions | Migration — by Will Kirkland @ 12:38 am
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The vices of Alabama law, which have caused an exodus of Hispanic workers in recent weeks, have a particularly strong stench here in Lugano, Switzerland, where I am passing a few days.  Lugano is the economic center of the southern most canton of Switzerland, Ticino.  It is largely Italian speaking and surrounded by Italy on three sides.  Some 25% of the workforce in Switzerland are “foreigners,” many of them commuting in bumper-to-bumper traffic from Italy, on a daily basis.  Here is a Swiss canton, whose official language is Italian and whose citizens are overwhelmingly Roman Catholic.  The citizens voluntarily joined the Swiss federation in 1803, overwhelmingly Calvinist Protestant, and has progressed from the poorest canton at the time to a well-off and pleasant place to live and work in modern times.  There is a lesson here.  Language differences do not presage political loyalties.  Workers from another country are a valuable and necessary part of the work force.


Then there’s Alabama.

The vanishing began Wednesday night, the most frightened families packing up their cars as soon as they heard the news.

They left behind mobile homes, sold fully furnished for a thousand dollars or even less. Or they just closed up and, in a gesture of optimism, left the keys with a neighbor. Dogs were fed one last time; if no home could be found, they were simply unleashed.

Two, 5, 10 years of living here, and then gone in a matter of days, to Tennessee, Illinois, Oregon, Florida, Arkansas, Mexico — who knows? Anywhere but Alabama.

International Herald Tribune


Critics of the law, particularly farmers, contractors and home builders, say the measure has already been devastating, leaving rotting crops in fields and critical shortages of labor. They say that even fully documented Hispanic workers are leaving, an assessment that seems to be borne out in interviews here. The legal status of family members is often mixed — children are often American-born citizens — but the decision whether to stay rests on the weakest link.

The exodus of Hispanic immigrants began just hours after a federal judge in Birmingham upheld most provisions of the state’s far-reaching immigration enforcement law.

I was brought up to believe in wishing evil on no man, but I have to confess I hope the Alabamans who favor this law are eating Hispanic crow in a few months.  It is absolutely fatuous that work-release ex cons can make up the lost labor force in the chicken processing plants as supporters are saying.

According to a Editorial in the Herald Tribune, Alabama’s Shame,

Only about 3.5 percent of Alabama’s population is foreign-born, according to the Census Bureau. Undocumented immigrants made up roughly 4.2 percent of its work force in 2010, according to the Pew Hispanic Center

Only 4.2% against 25% in Ticino, Switzerland.  And, no doubt about it, Ticino, is a far more pleasant place to live and work than Albertville, Alabama.  Welcome the foreign, accept them as they are, willing and able to work and contribute to life, economic and cultural, and everyone will live and prosper. As the Tribune editorial conlcludes:

As for Alabama, one has to wonder at such counterproductive cruelty. Do Alabamans want children too frightened to go to school? Or pregnant women too frightened to seek care? Whom could that possibly benefit?

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