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At The Nation: Ilyse Hogue on Consequences of Alabama’s Harsh Immigration Law for all Americans

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alabama immigration lawRecently, the 11th circuit court blocked two parts of the nation’s harshest anti-immigrant law, only making HB-56 the teeniest bit less severe.  To recap, the court basically said that newly-enrolled students in Alabama don’t need to show proof of lawful residency and immigrants apparently don’t need to carry around proof of lawful residency. However, anyone’s immigration status can be checked if stopped for a traffic violation, and it’s still a felony to apply for something as simple as a car tag.

The Alabama immigration law is punishment for the documented and undocumented alike. In an interview I did at a popular farmers’ market in downtown Birmingham, a small-time grower named Whit Russell (watch it on YouTube) said that the law is just “cruel.”

“I believe that the Alabama law handled it [immigration reform] in a completely wrong way,” he told me; He added “…the way the state of Alabama has done it is, to be honest with you, careless to the civil liberties of regular Alabamians.” 

That sentiment is also relayed in Ilyse Hogue’s powerful piece published yesterday in The Nation. According to Ilyse, the former director of political advocacy and communications at MoveOn.org, the law is “codifying a new era of fear and racism in our country.” Her piece is written through an economic lens, and the implications of this law for American citizens is clear. Note the serious consequences this law has for all Americans:

One hyper-real image making its way around the internet shows a sign posted on the door of a utility office demanding a driver’s license to pay your bill. Failure to show proof of citizenship, the sign warned, could result in termination of water services to your home. Punishment will now be meted out not only to people without papers, but also to those who employ, house or assist them in any way. A lawsuit to stop HB56 filed on behalf of Episcopalian, Methodist and Roman Catholic churches notes that “Alabama’s Anti-Immigration Law will make it a crime to follow God’s command to be Good Samaritans.”

…Farmers are already reporting a crisis in their workforce that will hobble harvests and drive food prices higher. One farmer reported that he had only eleven citizens apply for the picking jobs after his crew left, only one stayed to take the job after learning what was entailed—and that man quit after one day. Alabama farmer Chad Smith toldForbes“The tomatoes are rotting in the vine, and there is very little we can do.” “We will be lucky to be in business next year,” he added.

…The economic impact doesn’t end with the crops; it affects everyone in the state. As Randy Christian, chief deputy in Birmingham’s Jefferson County, points out, his county is already trying to avoid filing the largest municipal bankruptcy in US history; enforcing this law will cost police money they do not have: “I am more concerned on where we will put the ones we detain. We have a jail built for 900 inmates that is already overcrowded and averaging 1,200 inmates a day. It’s another unfunded mandate to a county struggling to keep its head above water.”

 The entire piece is worth the read. Check it out.