|Arizona Immigration Law Be careful what you ask for|
|Thursday, 12 July 2012 13:25|
The U.S. Supreme Court dealt with the sticky question of what to do about the state of Arizona’s immigration law by dividing the baby, calling parts of the law an encroachment on federal prerogatives, while allowing the right of local police to inquire about immigration status to stand.
What the court didn’t do is deal with the consequences of the state’s effort to control its borders and its citizens which now include a massive labor shortage in the construction industry.
As the recovery slowly finds its way to states like Arizona, the contractors in the state are discovering their workforce did not wait around, but moved to other states where there was already work. In addition, the state immigration law caused many Latino construction workers who had made up a sizeable portion of the workforce moved to friendlier climes without threats of deportation.
Now contractors report that recruiters for other construction companies are showing up on job sites with offers of increased pay and even cash bonuses.
The head of the Arizona Construction Association said Arizona lost almost 210,000 construction workers during the recession.
“If they’re trying to pull from everywhere, it tells me the recent appetite for residential construction is now escalating and the people aren’t there,” said David Jones, president of the Arizona Construction Association.
Jones said many construction workers left because of the state’s tough immigration laws and may not return. On top of this, the younger generation is more interested in technology jobs than backbreaking work in construction.
“They’re young and they’re bright but not interested in working with their hands and minds in a physically demanding job,” he said.
Jones said returning American troops may be an option to fill the construction jobs.
“That may well be a reservoir that we will rely on for skilled labor,” he said. “They have construction skills, know how to operate equipment and want to work when they come home.”
In a 5-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court held that federal law preempts significant portions of Arizona’s immigration law (Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act (S.B. 1070)). Three of four provisions of the law were invalidated by the Court.
One of the provisions made it a violation of state law for an unauthorized worker to apply for work or work in the state of Arizona. Specifically, under section 5(c) of the law it is a misdemeanor for “an unauthorized alien to knowingly apply for work, solicit work in a public place or perform work as an employee or independent contractor” in Arizona. Penalties for violations of this section include a $2,500 fine and incarceration for up to six months. Small wonder they are now facing labor shortages.