This excellent USA Today article looks at the effect on the economy of Oklahoma’s strict new anti-immigration law. Namely, many employers are facing a crisis of figuring out how to replace Hispanic employees disappearing en masse to other states. The anti-immigration forces have always argued that these workers are taking American jobs and using up our social services, while others argue for a net positive effect of both legal and illegal immigration, so it will be an interesting case study.
Even if it’s revealed that immigrants benefited Oklahoma, the debate certainly won’t end. Fears of immigration are as much if not more about cultural anxieties as economic ones. Of course the cultural concerns are even more misguided and in many ways racist, but for the same reason they won’t be amenable to being disproved by objective numbers. Looking too deep into our immigration fears is to witness some of the worst parts of the American psyche (as when the conservative focus group watching the New Hampshire debates disapproved of McCain’s call for a “humane” immigration policy).