LAS VEGAS -- Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who put in place the first in a string of state crackdowns on unauthorized immigration, defended on Tuesday a similar law in Alabama that allows state officials to ask residents for papers during virtually any interaction with the government.
American job seekers, said Brewer, will eventually take the low-wage farm jobs that have been vacated by migrant workers fearing for their safety. "Alabama will survive," she told HuffPost.
Speaking after the Las Vegas GOP presidential debate, Brewer said the law would do what legislators hoped: drive undocumented immigrants out of Alabama -- or even the country -- and free up jobs for American workers.
"We never like to see families breaking up, but the bottom line is, probably those leaving Alabama are probably going back to Mexico," she told HuffPost. "But we are a nation of laws and American citizens, tax-paying people, the members of our country ought not to have to take care of illegal immigration and all the issues that go with it -- education, health care, incarceration."
The Alabama law is based on Arizona law S.B. 1070, which Brewer signed last year, but a federal judge promptly blocked key provisions of the law from going into effect. Yet the Alabama law goes beyond allowing police to check immigration status when they have "reasonable suspicion" that someone is undocumented. In Alabama's H.B. 56, undocumented immigrants can be asked for their papers during police stops, business transactions and other contact with government, including a temporarily blocked provision that allowed K-12 schools to check status during enrollment.
Scores of undocumented immigrants have left Alabama in response to the law, leaving many farms without workers as undocumented farm hands fled the state. Even legal Latino workers are leaving the state because they have undocumented family, the Associated Press reported.
As a result, farmers say they are already losing crops, and money, because they do not have enough workers to harvest their fields.
Brewer said farmers would eventually find workers to prevent fruit and vegetables from dying on the vine.
"I think that it will settle down. I think they will probably find workers," she said. "There are a lot of people unemployed there. They just need to get it organized and get it moving forward so those jobs are filled."
She reiterated that she believed Americans would take the jobs abandoned by immigrant and Latino workers, although prior national attempts to get American workers into farm work have been unsuccessful.
"I don't think they've had enough time," she said. "This just passed. After you pass any kind of that type of legislation, there’s a little fall out and then everybody regroups and moves forward."
CORRECTION: The initial article incorrectly stated the above quote as, "any kind of that type of legislation is ruled far out" due to an inaccurate transcription.