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Alabama’s Anti-Immigrant Law Headlines: “Lose Water Supply” and “Sends Families Fleeing”

by Mahwish Khan on 10/11/2011 at 12:15pm

Earlier today, we posted Maribel Hasting’s op-ed about the crisis in Alabama. The devastating impact of Alabama’s new immigration law continues to generate heartbreaking stories, including two other articles from the state over the weekend that caught our attention.

The Guardian newspaper report, with the chilling headline “Alabama immigration threat: prove your legal status or lose water supply” documents what’s happening in the town of Allgood, Alabama (a photo of the actual sign is on the right):

The poster is mildly worded, but carries a very big punch. “Attention to all water customers,” it begins. “To be compliant with new laws concerning immigration you must have an Alabama driver’s licence …”

And then comes the hit: “… or you may lose water service.”

The warning, posted in the offices of a public water company in the small town of Allgood in Alabama, is the most graphic illustration yet of the draconian new immigration law coming into effect in the state. Under section 30 of the new law, HB56, anyone who lacks proper immigration papers is deemed to be committing a crime if they try to enter into a “business transaction” with the “state or a political subdivision of the state”.

The law does not spell out what constitutes a “business transaction” or what particular state bodies are implicated, but judging from the poster put up by the Allgood Alabama Water Works company it is being interpreted widely enough to include the basic essentials of life.

“This demonstrates the cruelty of the new law by denying the most basic facilities to people. It’s designed to make life so miserable that people self-deport, and this poster is a vivid example of what that looks like,” said Jessica Karp of the National Day Laborers union. 

In the Washington Post article titled “A tough new Alabama law targets illegal immigrants and sends families fleeing, Pamela Constable writes:

Across Alabama, news of the court ruling has swiftly spread panic and chaos among trailer parks and working-class areas where legal and illegal immigrant families from Mexico and Central America — as many as 150,000 people, by some estimates — live and work at jobs their bosses say local residents largely refuse to do.

In Foley, a sprawling seaside resort town where hundreds of Hispanic immigrants work in restaurants, sod farms and seafood industries, many families last week were taking their children out of school, piling their furniture into trucks, offering baby clothes and bicycles on front lawns for sale and saying tearful goodbyes to neighbors and co-workers they might never see again.

“This is the saddest thing I have experienced in my 18 years as a priest,” said the Rev. Paul Zoghby, who ministers to a large Hispanic flock at St. Margaret of Scotland Church. “We’ve already lost 20 percent of the congregation in the past few weeks, and many more will be gone by next week. It is a human tragedy.”

This truly is a crisis.

More information on the consequences of Alabama’s new immigration law can be found here.

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