NJ town underestimates impact of illegal immigrant ban

I file this one under “well…duh” because, quite simply, I find it incredibly ridiculous that the officials of Riverside, NJ didn’t realize that cracking down on illegal immigrants would have any sort of economic or social impact. First, the ban:

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.

The effects?

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.

The law had worked. Perhaps, some said, too well.

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.

And the Mayor’s response, which sums up how clueless people can be:

“I don’t think people knew there would be such an economic burden…A lot of people did not look three years out.”

It’s as if they thought of illegal immigrants as some sort of mythical creature that terrorizes the townfolk after nightfall and that could be chased out with torch in one hand, pitchfork in the other. It’s not like these are individuals and families who work local jobs and consume goods – oh wait – they are! That is, they are a (significant) contributor to local economies. Now, a town may decide that they’re willing to take a hit to their economy for the sake of the law, but my guess is that most won’t, which is why we’ll probably see more towns reversing their illegal immigrant laws. There has to be better ways of tackling the immigration issue than this.

Source – NY Times “Towns Rethink Laws Against Illegal Immigrants



  1. Jamelle said,

    September 30, 2007 at 1:14 pm

    I’m sure though that the recent economic downturn won’t be enough to make residents reevaluate their anti-immigrant prejudice.

    Sure they’ll probably let immigrants back in to the town, but they’ll probably still hold the same negative opinions about them.

  2. Lily said,

    October 1, 2007 at 12:08 pm

    Unfortunately you’re probably right about that. It’s sad to see the racism that tends to show itself when people discuss immigration. I don’t agree with people coming here illegally, but I feel that if most people were given some sort of legal option they would gladly go that route (most people don’t want to break the law). It’s too bad we’ve created this system that punishes people with tons of paperwork and bureaucracy when they attempt to get work visas – it’s no wonder many simply cross the borders illegally. I worked in a research lab at a university for a few years, and saw first-hand how difficult it was even for people who already held visas to get them renewed. A few people had to go back to their home country for several months before they could return to the US.
    But instead of an intelligent debate on the matter (how to maximize entry of legitimate immigrants while restricting would-be terrorists) we’re left discussing the feasibility of giant fences along the US-Mexico border. (every time I hear someone mention “border fence” I seriously think to myself “wtf”..but unfortunately I think I’m in the minority for that one) 🙂

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