You’ve probably heard that Alabama has begun implementing the harshest anti-immigrant law in the country. Their stated goal is to wipe every undocumented person from the state by putting such a squeeze on their communities that they are terrorized out. Police, public utilities companies and even elementary schools are authorized to report anyone they think may be undocumented. The chief tactic of the law is racial profiling and the goal is ethnic cleansing, plain and simple. After all, would you use a tactic like this to find tax absconders?
One terrified woman’s description of the climate manufactured by the nativists in Alabama says it all:
I was born in the United States. I know I have my American rights. But if I go outside people are going to think I’m illegal. I get scared because we have the color.
Insane reports are coming in from all over the state. The law requires schools to check the immigration status of students and their parents, and authorizes them to report any who they suspect might be undocumented. Understandably, that has led to terrified kids, mass absences, and scores of families abandoning their homes. Though officials say that school children have nothing to fear, the Montgomery Advertiser reports that one parent described what folks on the ground are hearing all over the state in an affidavit requesting an emergency stay of the law:
A Montgomery public school teacher asked a fourth-grader whether she was a legal resident, and later asked about the immigration status of the girl's parents.
I heard the story before it was reported from an organizer down there who broke down crying while telling several of us the story. She also told us that a civil rights abuse hotline set up right after the implementation of the law began fielded over 1,000 calls in just two days. I can hear that teacher now: “just doing my job, just doing my part.” Obviously the situation pisses me off but I have to admit that the organizer’s call left me pretty shaken up about where our country can so quickly go.
But according to the nativists, things are going according to plan – they like what they see.
Politico asked Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks (the guy who suggested that Congress do anything short of shooting immigrants to get them to leave) what he thought about the disappearance of Hispanic students from schools. From the Politico piece:
So these aren’t unintended consequences. We want illegal aliens out of the state of Alabama and I want illegal aliens out of the United States of America.
And in a post on National Review’s blog, “The Corner,” Mark Krikorian, director of the Center for Immigration Studies, reacted to a story in the New York Times that highlighted the devastation this law is already having on one Alabama town by exclaiming “that’s the point.”
The New York Times reports on an Alabama town where illegal aliens are getting the hint from the state’s new immigration law and leaving. It’s obviously presented as a terrible thing, but this is exactly the point of such measures — attrition through enforcement.
As we’ve noted in the past, “attrition through enforcement” is just another way of saying "mass-deportation." But really, immigrants don’t live in pods that can simply be picked up and moved from Alabama to Guatemala; they have families, go to work and school, and just live their lives.
The Alabama law was written by Kris Kobach, now Secretary of State in Kansas and author of the Arizona “papers please” law. Kobach first became famous when he, as chairman of the Kansas Republican party, got into hot water for bragging about purging minority and likely Democratic voters from the rolls. No joke, Kobach says that he wrote the Alabama law on his laptop while sitting in a turkey blind.
The Center for American Progress does an excellent job of laying out what the law does and what the consequences are. As anyone can see, the strategy of the law is ethnic profiling. According to CAP, some of the most egregious provisions of the law are:
Schools must check the immigration status of every student and parent and report that information to the state.
Schools are authorized to report students and parents they believe to be undocumented to the federal government.
Police officers must ask anyone they stop who they think might be undocumented to prove their immigration status on the spot.
It is now a state crime to be undocumented.
Some undocumented immigrants must be indefinitely detained.
Anti-immigration activists, like Krikorian, applaud the devastation and turmoil that Latino families in Alabama are experiencing. They are driven by their anti-immigrant fervor and have no shame. As expected, Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions seems unbothered by the human impact, too.
But, there is a human impact. And, it’s frightening that this is happening in the United States. Who would have thought we’d see headlines like "Hispanic students vanish from Alabama schools" and "After ruling, Hispanics flee from Alabama town” in the year 2011?
The Center for American Progress lifts up this quote from Silvia Giagnoni, assistant professor in the Department of Communication and Dramatic Arts at Auburn University at Montgomery:
It is sadly ironic that the same day a federal judge upholds major sections of the Alabama immigration law—the most restrictive in the nation—the state also receives an ‘A’ on its educational work in teaching civil rights history. It's ironic because this comes at a time when the most retrogressive forces in Alabama claim a victory, although it is unclear to me against whom.
And, don’t think the anti-immigrant zealots are finished. This has just whetted their appetites. They’re pushing to bring their dark vision for America to all fifty states.
So far, the leading contenders for the Republican presidential nomination are proposing a vision for immigration policy eerily similar to the backwards Alabama approach: deny immigrants any chance of legal status and put the squeeze on their families to force them all out.
I’m headed to Alabama this weekend to join a team of volunteers to help as much as we can. Please wish us luck.