I’ve spent a fair amount of time in Real America and I can tell you that Construction Trade Contractors have been running full out since a series tornadoes (hundreds, I think) ripped through the southeast on April 27th.
While there is a shortage of skilled labor and this is true, what also becomes apparent is that many work crews use immigrant labor. And at a time when folks may want this work force to stick around, politicians are cracking down on undocumented workers:
Tuscaloosa, Alabama, begins rebuilding more than 7,200 homes and businesses leveled by an April 27 tornado, it may find itself missing a workforce capable of putting the city together again.
That’s what Ever
, head of the city’s Hispanic soccer league, said after losing a third of his teams in a week. Tuscaloosa County’s 6,000-strong Hispanic population --including roofers, Sheetrockers, concrete pourers, framers, landscapers and laborers -- is disappearing, he said, before a law cracking down on illegal immigrants takes effect. Duarte
“They’re leaving now, right now,”
, 36, said during a pause in a pick-up soccer game last week in a neighborhood gym. “I know people who are packing up tonight. They don’t want to wait to see what happens. It started last week. Our league had 12 teams the week before that. Last week, it was eight.” Duarte
Governor Robert Bentley signed
’s 72-page measure June 9, calling it “the strongest immigration bill in the country.” Alabama Alabamabecame the fifth state to enact sanctions against undocumented workers, following Arizona, Utah, Indiana and Georgia, where a federal judge yesterday blocked part of the restrictions. is getting an early gauge of the law’s effects in its state. Tuscaloosa
Trail of Ruin
The tornado roared through
, killing 43 and leaving a path of rubble and ruin three-quarters of a mile wide and six miles (9.6 kilometers) long. The law, which takes effect in September, threatens to unleash its own havoc. Tuscaloosa
“Hispanics, documented and undocumented, dominate anything to do with masonry, concrete, framing, roofing, and landscaping,” said Bob McNelly, a contractor with Nash-McCraw Properties, during an interview at a coffee shop near a destroyed gas station and bank. “There are very few subcontractors I work with that don’t have a Hispanic workforce.”
The city of 90,000 imposed a moratorium on major reconstruction that ends Aug. 8 to enable it to plan its remaking. The rebuilding, McNelly said, will be harder and more expensive without them:
“It’s not the pay rate. It’s the fact that they work harder than anyone. It’s the work ethic.”
Since April 27,
has issued 1,069 business licenses, of which 81 percent, or 870, were for concerns related to the storm damage, Linda McKinney, the Revenue Department’s director, said in a telephone interview. A normal year would bring no more than 100 in the same time, she said. Tuscaloosa
McDade said contractors have called looking for workers and that she hadn’t had anybody to recommend.
“They’re leaving,” she said. “Anybody with family in another state is going to go.”
Miguel Ramirez has been working in the
U.S.without documents for 12 years, and said he moved to for post-storm construction jobs. Tuscaloosa
He had been in
, rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina, he said through an interpreter in a mall parking lot. New Orleans
When the law takes effect, he said, “
will feel it. The talk in our community is that people are packing their things.” Tuscaloosa
Ramirez said he’ll leave, too.
“I would work for $100 a day in
rather than $150 a day here,” he said. “In Louisiana , the word there is that the governor is still grateful for the work we did.” Louisiana
Sure in theory, sanctioning businesses that hire undocumented workers may mean that there will be a lot of temporary construction jobs open for other people…… if you can find people with the same skill set. And the construction, repair and recovery will probably, eventually, hopefully, someday get done, however it seems apparent that there will be a shortage of skilled labor at just time when it is needed most.
I chalk this up to the law of unintended consequences. Like when the Conservatives in
You just can’t win sometimes. Oh well.