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In Alabama, Widespread Pain and Problems from HB 56’s “Attrition Through Enforcement”

by Mahwish Khan on 10/20/2011 at 1:22pm

no juan crow signPowerful editorial in today’s NY Times about the impact of HB 56 on people across Alabama. The new harsh law is impacting everyone, not just its intended target of immigrants. It’s exactly what the proponents wanted:

Alabama’s law is the biggest test yet for “attrition through enforcement,” a strategy espoused by Mr. Kobach and others to drive away large numbers of illegal immigrants without the hassle and expense of a police-state roundup. All you have to do, they say, is make life hard enough and immigrants will leave on their own. In such a scheme, panic and fear are a plus; suffering is the point.

The pain isn’t felt just by the undocumented. Legal immigrants and native-born Alabamans who happen to be or look Hispanic are now far more vulnerable to officially sanctioned harassment. Many of those children being kept home from school by frightened parents are born and bred Americans.

The problems do not stop there. Farmers are already worrying that with the exodus, crops will go unpicked. Like much of the rest of the country, Alabama needs immigrant labor, because too many native-born citizens lack the skill, the stamina and the willingness to work in the fields — even in a time of steep unemployment.

The new law has also added frustrating layers of paperwork for Alabamans who must now prove legal status when enrolling schoolchildren, signing leases and interacting with government. After the law went into effect, the lines at the Department of Motor Vehicles in Birmingham grew so long that officials had to bring in portable toilets.

Alabama’s reputation has also taken a huge hit just when it is trying to lure international businesses. No matter how officials may try to tempt foreign automakers, say, with low taxes and wages, the state is already infamous as a regional capital of xenophobia.

Again, this is what Mr. Kobach and his ilk wanted.

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