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Cost of Alabama immigration law disputed

A study finding Alabama's crackdown on illegal immigrants will cost the state up to $11 billion is under fire from the law's supporters.

The cost-benefit analysis by University of Alabama economist Samuel Addy estimated up to 80,000 jobs were vacated by illegal immigrants fleeing after Alabama's tough law passed in June 2011, costing Alabama's economy up to $10.8 billion.

The lost jobs also cost Alabama up to $264.5 million in lost state sales and income taxes, and as much as $93.1 million in lost city and county sales taxes, it said.

The study found potential economic benefits include saving money used to provide public benefits to illegal immigrants, increased safety for citizens and legal residents, more business, employment, and education opportunities, and ensuring the integrity of various governmental programs and services.

The study asks: "Are the benefits of the new immigration law worth the costs?"

"Economies are demand-driven and so any policy, regulation, law, or action that reduces demand will shrink the economy no matter how well-intentioned," Addy asserts in the study.

"That's baloney," state Rep. Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, immigration bill cosponsor, told the Huntsville Times. "It's clear the study overestimates the negative and underestimates the positive to skew the result toward an agenda," Hammon said. "If 40,000 illegal workers leave the state, they free up jobs that homegrown Alabamians are happy to have."

Addy said the university research staff has looked at key issues facing Alabama, including the economic impact of last year's tornadoes, the BP oil spill and Gov. Bob Riley's Amendment 1 proposal to overhaul state taxes, the Times reported.

Addy's study said, "Anecdotal evidence to date seems to point to less than 9 of every 100 vacated jobs being filled by unemployed legal residents and citizens."

Hammon told the newspaper that the state unemployment rate fell since the bill was signed, especially in Marshall County, "once a known hotbed for illegal immigration."

A spokeswoman for Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, who signed the bill into law, told the Times that Bentley also questioned the study's conclusions. Alabama has the lowest unemployment rate among seven southeastern states, the spokeswoman said.

In its latest unemployment rate report, which was for December 2011, the state's Department of Industrial Relations said the state unemployment rate was 8.1 percent, down a full percentage point from December 2010. the governor's office said the rate had been falling since August, when the rate was 9.9 percent. April 27 tornadoes that tore through Alabama had caused a spike in the rate, officials said.

In Marshall County, the December jobless rate was 6.9 percent, down from 8.0 percent a year earlier.

A U.S. appeals court has blocked Alabama from enforcing parts of the law, including a provision that permits Alabama to require public schools to determine the legal residency of children upon enrollment. But the court left most of the law untouched.

There are an estimated 11.2 million illegal immigrants in the United States.

Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah have passed "omnibus" immigration crackdowns since Arizona blazed the trail in 2010 with a law requiring police to check the status of all those they arrested and suspected of being in the country illegally. That measure has since been blocked by a court.

msnbc.com's Jim Gold and The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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