Alabama immigrants flee after judge upholds harsh immigration law
Alabama statute causes many to move; kids not at school
Alabama Hispanics are taking their children out of school, packing up their cars and fleeing the state after a judge last week gave the go ahead for what some have called the toughest immigration law in the country.
The exodus started just hours after Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn upheld controversial parts of the state's immigration solution, including provisions that require schools to inquire about immigration status when registering children and gave state and local police the power to ask for immigration papers during routine traffic stops. The law, which the governor called "the strongest immigration law in the country," went into effect immediately, the New York Times reported.
In Albertville, Ala., residents who had lived in the neighborhood for 10 years were packed up and gone within a matter of days, selling fully furnished mobile homes for $1,000 or less. John Weathers, who rents and has sold houses to many Hispanic residents in the area, said his occupancy has dropped by a quarter since the ruling. Volunteers at an immigrant-rights group hot line told the New York Times they fielded more than 1,000 phone calls over the weekend from pregnant women afraid to go the hopsital, crime victims afraid to go to the police and parents afraid to go to school.
More than 2,250 Hispanic students didn't show up for school in Alabama Monday, Politico reported. That's double routine absentee rates. Cindy Warner, public relations supervisor for the Shelby County school system told Politico she has observed "fear and panic" from parents since the ruling.
Warner, like other Alabama school officials, several of whom have gone on TV to plead with parents to keep children in school, emphasized that the law does not change things for children who are already enrolled.
"We are working really hard to try to get information home to those parents to help calm those fears down," she said. "If your child is already enrolled in school, it doesn't apply to you. They will still be enrolled — federal law states that we cannot block their enrollment and must still continue to serve them. The issue will be that there will be one extra step in the reporting process — that we'll report to the state department the number of students who couldn't provide birth certificates."
Conservative blogs have praised the ruling, saying the exodus shoots down the argument that the country must offer amnesty because there is no way to deport all the undocumented immigrants.
"Those with some sense of sanity have always realized that the source of the problem is our incentivizing of illegal behavior, and that a concerted effort to enforce the laws would drain the illegal population through 'attrition by enforcement,'" wrote Daniel Horowitz of Redstate.com. "Now Alabama is showing the rest of the country how we can solve the problem simply by enforcing the laws on the books, or, more accurately, performing the job that the federal government refuses to do."
Others have labeled the situation alarming. The decision will have grave implications for Alabama's economy, wrote Suman Raghunahan, director of policy and strategic relationships at the Progressive States Network. Undocumented workers in Alabama paid $130,3 million in state and local taxes in 2010, Raghunahan reported. Recent analyses have concluded that the state could lose $2.6 billion in economic activity if undocumented immigrants flee the state.
"The evidence is clear: anti-immigrant laws such as those pursued by Alabama kill jobs, hurt state economies, endanger communities and drive away taxpayers — in addition to systematizing discrimination in a manner that clearly does not represent American values," Raghunahan wrote. "Laws like these are also a body blow to state budgets around the nation, still struggling from historic revenue shortfalls, and which will now be forced to account for millions defending them in expensive and needless legal battles."
The Obama administration filed court documents Friday announcing plans to appeal the ruling that upheld the law.
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