Throwing illegal immigrants out has a price
RIVERSIDE, N.J., Sept. 25 — A little more than a year ago, the Township Committee in this faded factory town became the first municipality in New Jersey to enact legislation penalizing anyone who employed or rented to an illegal immigrant.There are a lot of academic studies on the impact of immigrants, legal and illegal, on a community. But nothing illustrates the impact of people as starkly as chasing those people away.It gives us a sort of It's a Wonderful Life glimpse of what things are like without them. According to this article, many (but certainly not all) people are having second thoughts about successfully chasing away illegal immigrants. Some of the ordinances are being changed back.
Within months, hundreds, if not thousands, of recent immigrants from Brazil and other Latin American countries had fled. The noise, crowding and traffic that had accompanied their arrival over the past decade abated.
The law had worked. Perhaps, some said, too well.
With the departure of so many people, the local economy suffered. Hair salons, restaurants and corner shops that catered to the immigrants saw business plummet; several closed. Once-boarded-up storefronts downtown were boarded up again.
I hope some of these stories filter up to affect our national conversation about immigration reform. Right now, it seems like the Democrats are sitting it out as the Republicans whip their ever-shrinking base into a xenophobic fury. So it seems unlikely that anything meaningful will be done in the near future, which is sad. But who knows. Sometimes the unthinkable becomes commonplace faster than one would think.