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A range of Southern states continue to advance legislation that put Mitt Romney’s “self-deportation” theory into devastating practice. A concept originally envisioned by Romney advisor Kris Kobach and facilitated by the hyper-conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the “self-deportation” theory holds, improbably, that if you make life so intolerable and terrorizing for undocumented immigrants in the United States they will pack up their lives and their families and leave on their own. This idea is on the march in the South:
In Georgia, Republicans in the state legislature seeking to add even more punitive measures to the state’s anti-immigrant law, which passed last year (most of its provisions have been blocked by federal courts). New provisions would remove foreign passports from a list of documents acceptable for state transactions, rendering perfectly legal documents “illegal” and creating a foreign relations fiasco. Fox News Latino reports that the goal of this provision is to prevent undocumented immigrants from being able to obtain marriage licenses or water and sewer services, by eliminating their ability to show any ID. In equally troubling news, Governor Nathan Deal (R) and the state have handed over official state power to an Immigration Enforcement Review Board, a panel controlled by rabid anti-immigrant activist D.A. King.
In Mississippi, the state legislature continues to move forward on another bill modeled after Alabama’s worst-in-the-nation “show me your papers” law. Thankfully, some influential state civic and law enforcement voices are sounding the alarm about the potential damage wreaked by the possible law. As the Associated Press reports, “the president of Mississippi Sheriffs’ Association and the executive directors of the Mississippi Association of Chiefs of Police, the Mississippi Municipal League and the Mississippi Association of Supervisors” issued a new letter given to state Senators that “raises questions about whether local law enforcement agencies would have to keep interpreters on staff and whether violent offenders would have to be released from jails to make room for illegal immigrants. It also asks what should be done with children of illegal immigrants if the parents are taken into custody, and it says the bill could force increases in local taxes.” Similar concerns have been raised in other states. The question is – will the Mississippi state legislature listen, or put rabid right-wing politics over smart and effective law enforcement?
In Alabama, the state struggles to contain the fallout over their worst-in-the-nation anti-immigrant law HB 56. Among the costs include a setback to Alabama’s attempt to move past its reputation for racial intolerance as well as the price tag associated with the law, which a University of Alabama economist recently estimated to be a whopping $11 billion.
There are about 11.5 million undocumented immigrants currently in the US, a population roughly the size of Ohio’s. The architect of self-deportation, Romney advisor Kris Kobach recently boasted:
“If we had a true nationwide policy of self-deportation, I believe we would see our illegal alien population cut in half at a minimum very quickly.”
And Kobach has told Romney and his team “that this really does need to be part of our national effort.”
But as anyone who’s ever met an immigrant knows, that is simply not going to happen. They don’t leave the country; they go further into the shadows. A new study by the Center of American Progress confirms it: “Immigrants react to legal threats and hostile reception by going underground: They hold negative perceptions of local law enforcement, associate routine activities such as driving and walking with anxiety and the risk of deportation, and develop strategies of avoidance and fitting in to mitigate the discovery of their unauthorized status.” The report goes on to demonstrate why driving immigrants underground creates a myriad of problems for the larger community, and is not a solution to the broken immigration system.
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:
This Romney/Kobach vision is both degrading and inhumane. It is simply un-American to put in place a set of policies that deny access to water and utilities, force public elementary school officials to become de facto immigration agents and encourage discrimination and racial profiling against individuals based on the way they look or speak, even if they have been American citizens all their lives. States that sign up for their dehumanizing and counterproductive approach will find themselves on the wrong side of history.
Access the new Center for American Progress Report