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Governor of Alabama on immigration, disaster relief

Alabama was hit hard in 2011 by tornadoes.

Steve Chiotakis: Congress today will likely pass a spending plan to keep the government in business. But there are a lot of things being cut to get that plan approved so quickly -- like federal disaster assistance, important to places such as Alabama. Tornadoes pummeled the state eight months ago and Alabama's also a state that passed one of the most stringent immigration laws in the country.

We welcome Robert Bentley, the governor of Alabama, who's a Republican. Governor Bentley, welcome to Marketplace.

Robert Bentley: Well, than, you very much Steve.

Chiotakis: I want to start with today's big news, that Congress, of course, has agreed to this compromise budget plan to keep the government open. And I know one of the areas that's being cut is disaster relief, and that's something that Alabama is no stranger to because of the horrible tornadoes that happened. Now, you're a big supporter of balancing budgets. Were those cuts, do you think, necessary?

Bentley: Well, I think we don't know when disasters will occur, and we do need to keep a reserve available for any type of natural disaster. So, I just think we need to adequately fund FEMA, because, as I said, we never know when a natural disaster will hit us -- no state knows that. I think that we just need to at least have a minimum amount that will take care of any natural disaster that hits any state.

Chiotakis: I want to turn now to the immigration law, which of course is in the headlines in a lot of areas of the country. And it requires in Alabama for police to detain people they suspect of being there illegally. Why support such an immigration law in the first place? How is illegal immigration affecting Alabama?

Bentley: We've had a tremendous increase in Alabama in the number of illegal aliens that we know of. It does cause, on every state, a tremendous strain on the social systems -- hospitals, schools. We're very much in favor of legal immigration into this country, and that's the way we want it to occur.

Chiotakis: How do you think this makes Alabama look outside of Alabama -- because I know a lot of people support this law within the state. Do you think it hurts Alabama's business image?

Bentley: You know, I hear that, but I can tell you every day I talk with international companies. We already have on the books some announcements over the next two or three weeks for some large international companies that will be locating in Alabama.

And I continue to be in contact with them on a regular basis, to reassure them -- if they need reassurance -- that Alabama is open for business, and we're open for international business. I don't see it as a problem right now, but we want to make sure that it does not become a problem. And that's why I've talked about simplifying this bill, clarifying it, to make it look less anti-immigrant.

Chiotakis: Governor Robert Bentley of Alabama. Sir, thank you so much.

Bentley: Thank you, I appreciate it. And you have a Merry Christmas.

 

Hear the full interview with the Governor here.

About the author

Steve Chiotakis was the host of Marketplace Morning Report until January 2012.
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