Anti-Immigrant Laws Backfire on Riverside NJ

The NYT writes about how towns that have pompously taken an anti-immigrant stance are now changing their tone.

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.

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.

This was at a time when the whole immigration issue was the big story in the US, the war in Iraq be damned.

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.

Meanwhile, the town was hit with two lawsuits challenging the law. Legal bills began to pile up, straining the town’s already tight budget. Suddenly, many people — including some who originally favored the law — started having second thoughts.

So last week, the town rescinded the ordinance, joining a small but growing list of municipalities nationwide that have begun rethinking such laws as their legal and economic consequences have become clearer.

Immigration is the current N-word in the US. And sadly the conversation is overshadowed by the illegal immigrants issue. Legal immigration has taken a backseat. Politicians in trying to appease to the votebank want to make illegal immigrants legal so that they can vote.

But local communities want to push them out of their backyards into someone else’s.

History has a way of repeating itself. For a nation built on immigration, people here don’t seem to learn their lessons from history.

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