New Alabama immigration law has some immigrants already preparing to move
New Alabama immigration law has some immigrants already preparing to move
MONTGOMERY, Alabama -- Most parts of Alabama's immigration law won't take effect until Sept. 1 at the earliest, yet many people already are reacting to it.
Some unauthorized immigrants have moved from Alabama.
Many are trying to sell sofas, refrigerators and other items to raise money in case the law does survive a federal court challenge and they need to move home or to states without such a law.
Many immigrant parents also are arranging for trusted people to have power of attorney, so that if they are detained under the law, someone will have authority to take care of their kids.
Alabama's new immigration law targets unauthorized immigrants, those who don't have federal alien registration or other proof of legal presence in the United States. If it takes effect, the law would criminalize their presence in Alabama and make it a crime for them to work here, among other things.
The target population is larger than most Alabama cities: An estimated 120,000 unauthorized immigrants lived in Alabama in 2009 and 2010, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research organization in Washington. At least 60 percent were from Mexico, the center estimated in a report released in February.
[DO YOU KNOW WHAT THE LAW SAYS?
Read the full Alabama immigration law here.]
State Rep. Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, who sponsored the immigration bill that became law last month, said that, if the law is causing undocumented immigrants to leave, it's doing what he intended.
"This will create jobs for unemployed Alabama citizens," Hammon said. "We want to discourage illegal immigrants from coming to Alabama and prevent those that are already here from putting down roots."
A mass exodus of undocumented immigrants, if it were to occur, would put a dent in Alabama's work force. An estimated 95,000 unauthorized immigrants worked in Alabama in 2009 and 2010, making up about 4.2 percent of the labor force, the report said.
One of those workers is Julio Hernandez, 30, who works for a scrap metal company and lives in Odenville with his wife, Delgadina. They are undocumented immigrants from Mexico. Their 9-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son were born in the United States and are U.S. citizens.
Hernandez said he moved to Alabama 11 years ago "because of the poverty" in Mexico. He said an employer in 2003 wanted to help him get his papers for legal presence in the United States, but an attorney asked for $3,800, and he couldn't afford it.
Hernandez said that if the law takes effect, he likely will take his family to Mexico.
"I sold my truck and I'm selling my trailer, right now, my land," he said in translated Spanish. "Right now, I'm wanting to ... have that money in case we have to leave, to use it over there, because we're going to need it to send the kids to school."
Delgadina Hernandez said she knows of four families who have left or are about to leave Alabama for Mexico.
Domingo Castro, 29, an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala, works at a thrift store in Center Point and lives there with his wife and their two U.S.-born sons, who are 5 years old and 6 months old.
He said he came to the United States 15 years ago because of the poverty in Guatemala. He said he didn't get documents to be a legal resident here because he had no relatives legally in the United States to help him get papers.
If Alabama's immigration law takes effect, he said in translated Spanish, "Maybe I'll go to another state where they don't have the law."
Church officials and other people point to anecdotal evidence that the law already is affecting many people, even though most of its sections don't take effect until Sept. 1 and even though attorneys for civil rights groups filed suit July 8 in federal court, asking that the law be struck down as unconstitutional. Attorneys said they plan to ask the judge to temporarily block the law from taking effect until the lawsuit has been decided.
Dorothy McDade, Hispanic ministries coordinator at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Tuscaloosa, said, "There are people who have already left, and there are people who are selling their things to leave."
She said many people also are getting apostilles, guarantees that a state official who signs a document, such as a certified copy of a birth certificate, is, indeed, commissioned by the state. McDade said that if Mexican parents were to take their U.S.-born child to Mexico, they would need the child's birth certificate and an accompanying apostille for the child to attend school there.
The number of apostilles for birth certificates issued by the state Department of Public Health rose from 30 in January to 153 in May and 600 in June, said Nicole Henderson, director of the record services division in the department's Center for Health Statistics.
The Alabama Secretary of State's Office issued a total of 1,032 apostilles for all documents in May and 2,677 in June, said Emily Thompson, the deputy secretary of state.
McDade predicted that most undocumented immigrants she knows will stay in Alabama, at least for now. "They've told me that they will stay here and wait and see what effect the law is going to have," she said. "If they see a lot of people being deported, then they'll leave."
Orlando Rosa, operations manager for Rivera Communications in Pelham, which broadcasts Spanish-language radio programs from Alabaster, Bessemer and Lauderdale County, said hundreds of people in recent weeks have called in to an afternoon program trying to sell trucks, sofas, microwave ovens and other items.
"They say they're leaving. They kind of tell you that at the end, so people feel bad for them and buy the item," Rosa said.
Leslie Hillhouse, an interpreter who works with Hispanic immigrants in Birmingham, said she knows of many parents getting passports for their U.S.-born children, or arranging for trusted people to have power of attorney so they can take care of the kids if the parents are detained.
McDade said attorneys plan to meet with people this afternoon at her church's parish hall to arrange powers of attorney.
Hillhouse also said many immigrants worry about registering their children for school under the law. The new law will require each school district to report the numbers of its students born outside the United States or whose parents are unauthorized immigrants.
"A lot of people, they would rather leave the state before the school year starts, to avoid having to provide that information," Hillhouse said.
A QUICK LOOK AT THE IMMIGRATION LAW
Most sections of Alabama's immigration law will take effect Sept. 1, unless a federal court blocks the law. Key sections of the law state that:
• A person without valid federal alien registration or other proof of legal presence in the United States will, just for being in Alabama, be guilty of a crime punishable by a $100 fine and 30 days in jail.
• A law officer stopping, detaining or arresting a person will be required to make a reasonable attempt, when practicable, to determine the citizenship and immigration status of the person if there is reason to suspect the person is an illegal alien. Law officers would have to contact federal officials to check the person's status.
• It will be a crime punishable by a $500 fine for "an unauthorized alien" to knowingly apply for work, seek work or perform work as an employee or independent contractor.
• It will be a crime punishable by as much as a year in jail for a person who knew or recklessly disregarded that an immigrant was in the United States illegally to: conceal, harbor or shield the immigrant from detection, transport the immigrant "in furtherance of the unlawful presence of the alien," or rent a dwelling unit to the immigrant.
• Each school district will be required to report to the state school board the numbers of its students born outside U.S. jurisdiction or who have a parent who is an illegal immigrant. The board would have to file annual public statewide reports based on school districts' reports.
• Starting April 1, every employer in Alabama must use the federal E-Verify program to "verify the employment eligibility" of a new hire.
• Starting April 1, an employer found to have knowingly employed an unauthorized immigrant would have the business license suspended or revoked for where the person worked. An exception would be that an employer that used E-Verify to check an employee's status would be exempt from any violation involving the employee, even if he or she later was shown to be an illegal immigrant.
The state's workforce is showing some of the earliest signs of the law's effects.
State Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan said that last week, he saw squash in Jackson County and tomatoes in Blount County rotting in fields for lack of people to pick them. He said a squash farmer said he had 10 pickers for his crop but needed 25. McMillan noted that many Hispanic migrants for years have picked fruits and vegetables in Alabama.
"We're hearing from the growers that their employees are leaving," he said.
Johnny Adams, executive director of the Alabama Poultry and Egg Association, said the law's effects will depend on whether it survives court challenge and whether Hispanic workers -- people here illegally and those here legally, who are related to unauthorized immigrants or who feel unwelcome because of the law -- actually leave.
"Once the law is in place, how thoroughly will it be policed?" Adams added.
McMillan said the law could cause severe worker shortages in Alabama. "Worst case, it's going to decimate any outdoor labor that we have, whether it's farm or construction or forestry or whatever," he said.
Russell Davis, executive vice president of the Home Builders Association of Alabama, said labor shortages could be "serious issues" once demand for houses picks up, because of Hispanics who are skilled workers and laborers leaving Alabama and because some homebuilders quit the business in the latest downturn.
Jay Reed, president of Associated Builders and Contractors of Alabama, said four contractors so far have told him they had employees who left the state because of the law. He added that legal immigrants may leave for fears of racial profiling, or because a cousin or other relative is here illegally and wants to leave because of the law.
"Every commercial contractor I've come in touch with is concerned about the void in labor that we're going to experience due to the nature of the law," Reed said.
But Rosemary Elebash, state director of National Federation of Independent Business, said she's gotten no reports from members that workers are leaving. Likewise, Larry Fidel, president of the state restaurant and hospitality associations, said owners of hotels or restaurants haven't called him about employees leaving. "I'm not saying it hasn't happened," he said. "They just haven't told us."
State Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, a strong supporter of the immigration law, said he expects the state's workforce to adjust to any loss in immigrant workers.
"The workforce has changed over time because of the tremendous influx of illegal immigrants in the state. It'll take a little time to correct back to the way it used to be," Beason said. "There's always someone to fill a void and supply a need."
But if the law is blocked, Hernandez said he and his wife and kids will stay in Alabama, in large part because of their children's opportunity to attend good schools here.
"Well, if they block the law, I plan on staying here with my kids, because they have good study here. Because you know, in Mexico, there's a lot of delinquency there," he said.
There is no mention of who did the agricultural and construction work before this invasion. Or a mention of increased technology that would eliminate the need for such labor.
Last edited by Jeanfromfillmore; 07-17-2011 at 04:45 PM.