Alabama on my mind: anti-immigrant legislation leads to humanitarian crisis

In Alabama, recently passed House Bill 56 (HB 56) requires local and state law enforcement to check the status of any person of whom they have “reasonable suspicion” of being undocumented, in a remix of Arizona’s unconstitutional SB 1070. The Alabama law also requires schools to check the immigration status of all new students.

U.S. District Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn first issued a temporary injunction in August to give her more time to wade through the complex legal arguments in the case, and the ruling came on her last day of review. Her ruling kept many elements of the law, including the immigration check of students, but she temporarily enjoined others.

So, some AL families are pulling their children out of school. Many Alabama workers afraid to show up to their jobs and some folks are fleeing the state altogether.

This is particularly devastating to the state as food rots in the fields, unharvested. And rebuilding efforts after the devastating tornado that hit Tuscaloosa have slowed or halted. Alabama Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan calls the legislation “a pretty big overreach” and openly wondered, “How are we going to rebuild Tuscaloosa without roofers and construction workers.”

From the NYTimes:

Critics of the law, particularly farmers, contractors and home builders, say the measure has already been devastating, leaving rotting crops in fields and critical shortages of labor. They say that even fully documented Hispanic workers are leaving, an assessment that seems to be borne out in interviews here. The legal status of family members is often mixed — children are often American-born citizens — but the decision whether to stay rests on the weakest link.

So what can we do? A few things to do, right now:

1. Last Thursday, Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) introduced the End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA) of 2011. If passed, this bill would prohibit the use of profiling based on race, religion, ethnicity and national origin by any federal, state, local or Indian tribal law enforcement agency. You could email your Senator and tell them to pass the End Racial Profiling Act.

2. Make some (Facebook) noise. Full disclosure, I work for Breakthrough, and we’re the ones hosting this FB event. Visibility and public outrage all the way, folks.

3. Stay updated. Follow #HB56 and #CrisisAL on Twitter.

Join the Conversation

  • nazza

    The attitudes of those who have put together this law are not difficult to understand. They were seeking a scapegoat. No one bothered to really think it through.

    I grew up there, and I noticed rather quickly that the more progressive attitudes of the cities are always pitted against the much more conservative beliefs of the rural areas. Cities alone cannot carry elections or form a majority in either the state House or Senate. In places like New York State or maybe even Illinois, big cities carry much more legislative weight.

    Most of Alabama is working class, undereducated, and economically poor. The income disparities alone are responsible for many of these issues of simple ignorance.

  • Evan Grantham-Brown

    This episode should be a reminder that law enforcement is not the only thing that sucks about being an undocumented immigrant. Unemployment in the state of Alabama is at 9.9%. How bad must these jobs be if the farmers can’t find citizens willing to do them?

    • Evan Grantham-Brown

      That… was not well said on my part. I apologize.

  • rebeccajk42

    I just wanted to point something out in case others were curious. When I first heard about this, and the sentence “The Alabama law also requires schools to check the immigration status of all new students,” I thought WOAH, is that some kind of trap??? Like a student just trying to go to school, as is legally required, would get their whole family deported? But on NPR they explained that schools just report anonymous numbers of how many undocumented students they have. It’s just to collect data. (And note that many schoolchildren may have been born here, and the immigration status of their parents or other family members is not what is being collected.)

    I’m not apologizing for the law – it is whack. And I can understand families who choose to leave because of how blatantly targeting the school law is. But I also feel really bad for the students that are kept home from school because of misinformation, because people aren’t being told that going to school will not be a threat to them. It’s almost like the school law is there as a threat, because it is not well understood, and that is terrible.

    I still disagree with everything about the law, but thought it was important to clarify the school thing, because I was really thrown off by it at first until I learned more. The “reasonable suspicion” thing is of course the worst part.