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This is the fourth column in a series on the Alabama anti-immigration law by Maribel Hastings, Senior Advisor with America’s Voice Education Fund:
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – For Alabama’s immigrant families, yesterday’s refusal by federal judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn to issue a temporary stay to state law HB 56 is like salt in the wound.
Last night, undocumented parents, carrying their children, packed a Tarrant Elementary classroom for a “Know Your Rights” workshop on what to do if detained by the authorities, the first of its kind at this school. “Will it help if I carry my passport?” one father asked. “Should I have my notarized letter on me if they detain me?” a mother asked the workshop leader.
The anguish was evident among not only parents but teachers, who were indignant about “the persecution of these human beings who are just looking for a better life for their kids.”
One young couple from Ensenada, Baja California, listened attentively to the workshop. They’ve lived in Alabama for seven years. They have three children, but only the youngest is a native-born U.S. citizen. The oldest, 12 years old, has always made the honor roll at school, but now the family’s dream—that their children will receive an education and become professionals—is hanging by a thread. The parents didn’t even let their oldest son go on a field trip to the Space Museum in Huntsville—a trip he earned thanks to his good academic record—out of fear that he would be detained.
“We were confident that the judge would react less severely, that she would temporarily stay the law while they hear the appeal, but they broke the news to us that she didn’t,” the young father said with tears in his eyes. “We don’t have much time to think it over…maybe we can get our affairs in order here in two or three weeks and see what our options are, maybe moving to another state or straight to Mexico,” he added.
He’s taking precautionary measures: “I go alone to work and my wife stays at home, in case something comes up,” he said, referring to the possibility of being detained and deported.
Another young mother from Michoacán has a daughter who was born here, who was supposed to start school next year. She’s afraid that when the family goes to enroll her, school officials will identify her and her husband as undocumented.
“I’m terrified…if they were to detain me, I don’t know how long they’d be able to keep me in detention here, I don’t know if they’d take my children from me…we’re not all bad people, we’re not all criminals,” she said.
The godmother of her child, also from Michoacán, has lived in Alabama for four years. Her two daughters were born here.
“Moving to a different state has crossed our minds, but the same thing’s going to happen. If they allow it here, they’re going to allow it in other states,” she said.
But returning to Mexico, she continued, isn’t an alternative, “because the crime scares us too much.”
For the moment, they’ll stay in Alabama. “Every time we leave the house in fear, we cross ourselves, and we see if we come back home again,” she said.
“It’s very hard. We wanted to make another life for ourselves, but we’re not allowed. If they can’t stop it (the law) we’ll have to leave, but how horrible would that be? Because Latinos, Hispanics, we’ve also contributed to this country. We hope that their hearts will be turned and they’ll let us stay here, at very least for our children, who were born here. We want a better future for our children, not a life of crime in Mexico,” she concluded.