A New Civil Rights Era in Alabama? Undocumented Immigrants Intimidated Out of the State

By Brittney Hodnik
Impunity Watch Reporter, North America

WASHINGTON, United States – The strictest immigration laws in the country are found in the deep southern state of Alabama.  Although some may assume the strictest laws would be in place in border-sharing states such as Texas or Arizona, Alabama instead holds the title.  With a Supreme Court hearing pending, many compare the effects of these new laws to that of the Civil Rights Era of the 1950s and 1960s.

The new Alabama immigration debates bring up a long history of civil rights abuses in the state. (Image Courtesy of Fox News Latino/AP)

Probably the most controversial law is that requiring schools to check all students’ immigration status.  While the courts have temporarily blocked this provision, reports Fox News, the Supreme Court must ultimately decide whether education of kindergarten to high school students is fundamental, even for undocumented immigrants.

It should be noted that this law does not in any way bar students from receiving an education.  According to The New York Times, the law simply directs schools to obtain immigration status of incoming students through a birth certificate, other official documents, or an affidavit by the child’s parents.  The information makes its way to the State Board of Education to create an annual report.  No person or entity passes the date on to law enforcement at any time.

Fox News further reports, that although no conclusive numbers have been established, as many as 10% of school age children have withdrawn in the last month, since the law first came into effect.  The New York Times says that absences in Shelby County ranged as high as 15% of the total Hispanic student population, and that 1,000 absences can easily be expected per day.

The state argues that the law really has nothing to do with race, but rather the need for jobs.  Fox News reports that the provisions are simply a result of frustration with the federal government’s inaction and were made in an effort to open up jobs for the 10% of legal state residents who are currently out of work.

State Senator Scott Beason said that he is fine with the fact that the laws have driven immigrants out of the state of Alabama, but not necessarily out of the country.  Sen. Beason said about the bill, “It was not designed to go out and arrest tremendous numbers of people.  Most folks in the state illegally will self-deport and move to states that are supportive of large numbers of illegals coming to their state,” reports The Huffington Post.

Similar arguments are coming from Arizona.  Arizona State Representative John Kavanagh is quoted as saying “Our intention is to make Arizona a very uncomfortable place for them to be so they leave or never come here in the first place…So rather than massive deportations, we are basically going to encourage them to leave on their own,” reported The Huffington Post.

There are indeed many supporters of the bills, saying that widespread enactments of these kind of laws will force immigrants elsewhere, and largely eliminate the United States’ problems of illegal immigration.

The realty of the situation is, now that immigrants have started to leave the state of Alabama, few Americans are actually taking their place.  ABC News reports that Americans simply do not want these backbreaking, low-paying jobs.  Many either show up late, take time off, or quit after the first day.  Still others have failed to find any replacements at all, citing the fact that legal citizens simply do not want these kind of construction or farming jobs, reports Fox News

ABC News reports that there are crops that have not been harvested after the law went into effect.  Without the undocumented immigrants’ labor, blueberries and grapes have been left on the vine to spoil, and the agriculture industry has suffered.

What is more, the law is taking a toll on the children.  For the few who have remained despite the law, bullying has become routine.  The Associated Press reports that some students bully the undocumented children, telling them to go back to Mexico, when in fact they never lived there at all.  Many of the children were born here in the United States, although their parents were not.

In any event, The New York Times reports, the law has certainly created a “chilling effect” on parents sending their children to schools.  The Supreme Court has the opportunity to make a decision on the constitutionality of the law this year.  There are adamant proponents on each side, and it will be interesting to see which way the Court comes out.

For more information, please visit:

Fox News Latino — Alabama Immigration Battle Mirrors Civil Rights Era — 29 Oct. 2011

Politico (AP) — Alabama Immigration  Battle Recalls Civil Rights Past — 29 Oct. 2011

The Huffington Post — Alabama Lawmaker: Undocumented Immigrants Don’t Have to Go Home, But They Can’t Stay There — 27 Oct. 2011

The New York Times — Alabama Immigration Law’s Critics Question Target — 27 Oct. 2011

ABC News — Few Americans Take Immigrants’ Jobs in Alabama — 21 Oct. 2011

Author: Impunity Watch Archive