The Arkansas Friendship Coalition, the pro-immigrant alliance of business, churches and human rights groups, has called a press conference for 2 p.m. Monday at the state Capitol to publicize a new study by the Oklahoma Bankers Association on the impact that state’s new anti-immigrant legislation has had on the local economy. At the height of last year’s anti-immigrant hysteria, the Oklahoma legislature passed legislation making it a felony to knowingly hire, harbor or transport undocumented workers. At least one woman has been arrested for harboring her undocumented husband and another was arrested during a traffic stop when it was discovered that the boyfriend she was transporting in the passenger seat was here without a visa.
The Oklahoma Bankers study, which does not purport to take sides, indicates that the legislature’s attempt to get immigrants to leave the state may be working all too well. The report says that undocumented workers are indeed leaving, as are many legal, foreign born residents who no longer feel welcome in Oklahoma or who are related to the undocumented workers. The report says the exodus is causing worker shortages and a reduction in manufacturing and construction. The worker shortages are driving up wages for remaining low-end workers and the cutbacks in production are causing layoffs of skilled, white collar technicians and managers, driving their wages down.
The report projects an annual reduction in Gross State Product of about $1.8 billion dollars and concludes:
“The Oklahoma economy is not large enough and sufficiently diverse in its industry make-up to accommodate a 3% reduction in the size of its labor force. The ongoing debate over immigration and the cost associated with providing public services to undocumented workers is undeniably complex. The discussion is certain to continue and likely to remain contentious. However, the potential severity of the self imposed economic penalty is both real and alarming, seemingly requiring considerable benefits to merit its existence.”