Hispanics flee Alabama as state implements tough new immigration law

Alabama state capitol
Alabama's state capitol (photo via flickr/jimbowen0306)

In Alabama, it is time to get the hell out. Latinos, some documented, some full citizens, some the proverbial illegal immigrants, are one and all pulling up stakes–or just leaving the stakes behind.

In the wake of the federal court ruling that upheld most of the law, making Alabama’s immigrations laws the toughest in the nation, one Hispanic minister told the New York Times he was pulled over within hours of the ruling and told he was no longer welcome in Alabama.

From The New York Times:

The vanishing began Wednesday night, the most frightened families packing up their cars as soon as they heard the news.

They left behind mobile homes, sold fully furnished for a thousand dollars or even less. Or they just closed up and, in a gesture of optimism, left the keys with a neighbor. Dogs were fed one last time; if no home could be found, they were simply unleashed.

Two, 5, 10 years of living here, and then gone in a matter of days, to Tennessee, Illinois, Oregon, Florida, Arkansas, Mexico — who knows? Anywhere but Alabama.

The exodus of Hispanic immigrants began just hours after a federal judge in Birmingham upheld most provisions of the state’s far-reaching immigration enforcement law.

What the new immigration law means on a large scale will become clearest in a place like Albertville, whether it will deliver jobs to citizens and protect taxpayers as promised or whether it will spell economic disaster as opponents fear.

Critics of the law, particularly farmers, contractors and home builders, say the measure has already been devastating, leaving rotting crops in fields and critical shortages of labor. They say that even fully documented Hispanic workers are leaving, an assessment that seems to be borne out in interviews here. The legal status of family members is often mixed — children are often American-born citizens — but the decision whether to stay rests on the weakest link.

Backers of the law acknowledge that it might be disruptive in the short term, but say it will prove effective over time.

Like The Times, Politico today reports that thousands of Hispanic children have been absent from school since the ruling, which requires proof of legal status to enroll in school.

The International Business Times reports today that school children are being asked by their teachers about their family’s immigration status.

Rather than face such scrutiny, many are simply leaving.

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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