What happens when you succeed in driving illegal immigrants out of your town? A lot of small businesses suffer.
RIVERSIDE, N.J., Sept. 25 -- 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.
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.
Meanwhile, the town was hit with two lawsuits challenging the law. Legal bills began to pile up, straining the town's already tight budget. Suddenly, many people -- including some who originally favored the law -- started having second thoughts.
So last week, the town rescinded the ordinance, joining a small but growing list of municipalities nationwide that have begun rethinking such laws as their legal and economic consequences have become clearer.
"I don't think people knew there would be such an economic burden," said Mayor George Conard, who voted for the original ordinance. "A lot of people did not look three years out."