Tell Me Again How Alabama’s Immigration Law is a “Victory for the State?”

Almost immediately after Judge Sharon Blackburn failed to enjoin key provisions of Alabama’s draconian immigration law (HB 56) last week, Alabamans began to feel the sting of the law’s harsh provisions. As immigrants leave the state, farmers, contractors, and homebuilders complain that labor shortages are and will continue to hurt their businesses. School administrators worry absent students will result in the loss of future funding. Immigrant rights groups fear the law will prevent victims from reporting crime to the police and pregnant women from going to the hospital. While Alabama Governor Robert Bentley hailed HB 56 as a “victory for the state,” the law’s intended and unintended consequences have proven to be anything but.

Supporters of Alabama’s restrictive law—which requires, among other things, police to demand proof of immigration status from those reasonably suspected to be here without documents—commented that the widespread fear in Alabama means the law is working. But tell that to local tomato farmer Chad Smith who said his family’s farms stands to lose as much as $150,000 this season with no one to pick tomatoes. Another farmer, Wayne Smith, added that there “might not even be a growing season next year.”

Bill Caton, president of Associated General Contractors of Alabama, said that estimates show that nearly one-fourth of the state’s commercial building work force has fled since Judge Blackburn’s ruling, leaving contractors, roofers and landscapers in the lurch. In Montgomery, landscape business owner Rick Pate said he lost two of his most experience legal workers whom he spent thousands training. In Tuscaloosa, where devastating tornadoes struck last April, many worry the lack of workers will hinder the town’s recovery efforts.

School administrators also worry that Alabama’s law will impact the state’s already cash-strapped school system, given that the law requires administrators to ask enrolling children about their legal status and that of their parents. According to Alabama’s Department of Education, 2,285 Hispanic students (of 34,000 Hispanic students state-wide) were absent from school on Monday.

According to Montgomery Public Schools Superintendent Barbara Thompson, a major dip in student enrollment could mean less state funding for schools:

The school system receives some funds from the state based on enrollment … Thompson said the system stands to lose money if absent students withdraw. Also, if absent students don’t show up in time for testing, the system could fail to meet participation requirements needed to make Adequate Yearly Progress [a federal accountability measure for schools.]

Aside from the impact on state business and schools, HB 56 is causing many people—documented and undocumented—to fear being racial profiled. Alabama’s police have already falsely arrested one legal resident whom they thought was here without authorization.

According to Montgomery educator, Lizzette Farsinejad, “[the law] is having an impact on children. Many have come to school fearful, many have cried,” she said. “A lot don’t understand why they are having to leave since they were born in the U.S.” Immigrant rights groups have also reported calls from immigrants worried about reporting crimes to police or pregnant women who fear going to the hospital.

Is this really the victory Governor Bentley was referring to?

While Alabama’s business leaders and school administrators struggle to find a way forward and the Department of Justice seeks an appeal of Judge Blackburn’s ruling, perhaps Alabama legislators should consider the real impact this law is having—not just on undocumented immigrants, but on Alabamans of every race, status, and profession.

Photo by KOMUnews.

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  • Jose

    Seth, I couldn’t agree more. You seem to have a sensible opinion about this complex issue; unfortunately most people around the internet do not. Do you ever read the website They’ve published numerous articles about Alabama’s law this week alone, and reading the comments that their readers leave in the forums after the article, is both alarming a little scary. It occurs to me that laws like Alabama’s are making it socially acceptable to discriminate against Mexicans. I wanted to point the article out to you here it is: Politicos’s Article

    And wanted to ask you to drop by ant leave them an intelligent comment, maybe you can talk some sense into their readers. I don’t think I’m articulate enough to get the counterpoint across as well as you.
    Jose Silva

  • Cindy

    Although the evidence that this new immigration law is a disaster for this state right out of the gate, I still hear and read discussion daily raving that “finally Alabama is headed in the right direction” It makes me wonder if people are really that stupid or just that blinded by prejudice.

  • amelia duran

    I feel for all imigrants because all of us are decendents of imigrants. The United States was formed by imigrants that came from Europe. If those who are unhappy with the imigrants maybe they should move to Arizona another State who believes that they were dropped out of nowhere to be the only citizens to live there. The Bible tells us very clearly that we should treat imigrants as we were treated when we first arrived. But with time those against the imigrants will learn a big lesson I don’t know how but it will come to pass, that I know with all my heart

  • Jerry Mercks

    I live in Alabama. I’ve been watching this build for years. “The illegal immigrants are taking all the good paying jobs away from us.” I hear on a regular basis. Well, where are the hordes of unemployed citizens whose jobs they were taking away? I don’t see anyone stepping up to claim those recovered jobs.

    This law had one purpose only. To drive minorities out of the state, legal or not. It is based on bigotry and intolerance. It was well thought out because it’s accomplishing it’s goals. The only problem is it wasn’t meant for the welfare of the state or the citizens. It’s based on racism. Now the backlash of unintended consequences begins.

    You people that voted for the tea baggers need to remember this next year. What next? You go to the wrong church? Your hair isn’t the right color? You’re not white enough? Only white landowners are allowed to vote? (I’ve been hearing that one for the past year.) If you allow this to continue you may just find yourself the next target of these dominionists tea baggers. If you don’t stand up for these folks who will be left to stand up for you when it’s your turn?

    Trust me. This is Alabama. Your turn will come.

  • G-man

    Sadly, Niel Young was right forty years ago,
    when he penned Alabama…

    Oh Alabama
    The devil fools
    with the best laid plan…

    What are you doing Alabama?
    You got the rest of the union
    to help you along
    What’s going wrong?