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Reporting from Alabama Brings Home Consequences of State's Immigration Law in Devastating Detail

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The devastating impact of Alabama’s new immigration law continues to generate heartbreaking stories, including three pieces filed from the ground over the weekend:

  • “We wanted to make another life for ourselves, but we’re not allowed.  Maribel Hastings of America’s Voice Español reports the devastation she has witnessed in the state’s immigrant communities.  Writes Hastings, “One young father from Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico told me, through tears, that his 12-year-old son, who is undocumented, has always been an honor student who recently won a school trip to go to the Space Museum in Huntsville.  He didn’t go, because he was afraid the police would detain him.  ‘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,’ the father said.  Some families don’t dare to leave the house, even to get basic items like food.  The church deacon said that he knew people who had gone days without leaving to buy groceries; he had offered to bring them food himself.  Those who do leave the house do so knowing the risk they take.  ‘We leave the house afraid. We cross ourselves – we wonder if we will come back home again,’ one young mother from Michoacán told me.  ‘It’s very hard.  We wanted to make another life for ourselves, but we’re not allowed. 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.’  This is exactly what the law doesn’t take into account.  It claims to target undocumented immigration, but ignores the fact that much of the immigrant community is comprised of “mixed status” families: undocumented parents with native-born US citizen children, who are already suffering the effects of the law.  Some immigrants have reported being denied basic utilities, like water and electricity; some, including pregnant women, are afraid to go to the doctor even though they are sick, for fear of being detained; some don’t dare bring their US citizen children to the doctor, for fear of being detained.”
  • “Prove your legal status or lose water supply.  The Guardian newspaper reports on a chilling warning now in effect in the town of Allgood, Alabama: “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 license…’  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.”
  • “I cannot believe this is God’s will.”  In the Washington Post, Pamela Constable reports, “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….‘This law has shattered all our dreams,’ said Maria, 35, a house cleaner and mother of two from central Mexico, weeping and clutching at her husband for support in a church meeting room.  An illegal immigrant, she asked her last name not be used.  ‘We do the jobs no one else wants to do.  We pay taxes.  We do not harm anyone.  Now the government says they don’t want us here, but we have nowhere to go.  All the doors are closing on us.  We can’t even drive a car without being afraid.  I cannot believe this is God’s will.’”

For more information on the consequences of Alabama’s new immigration law, visit: http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2011/10/alabama_law_quotes.html

America’s Voice Education Fund — Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform.