The First Week of Alabama’s New Law Shows Negative Impact on Children

 On October 5, a federal judge decided that Alabama’s anti-immigrant lawwill remain in effect while the U.S. Department of Justice and immigrant rights groups appeal a decision denying an injunction against the law.

With Alabama government allowed to continue enforcement efforts, it is time to look at what the first week of the law has meant for non-white immigrants and people whom officials believe to be immigrants.

School districts around Alabama report that as many as 5 percent of Latino students in-district have dropped out in just the first four school days after the law went into effect. Parents were terrified when at least one Montgomery teacher began asking fourth graders if they or their parents were undocumented. According to one mother, the teacher singled out Latinos for the question.

The head of the school system in Montgomery, Barbara Thompson, says that the law is destroying the learning environment for Latino children, many of whom are U.S. citizens. She said the situation for them is “scary” adding, “There’s a lot of distrust and fear.”

Lizzette Farsinejad, an education specialist with the Montgomery Public Schools, told USA Today that 40 students she works with have dropped out in a week. She described a scene of trauma for the children under the school’s care in the wake of the new law’s implementation.

“It is having an impact on children,” she said. “Many have come to school fearful, many have cried…A lot don’t understand why they are having to leave since they were born in the US.”

Opposition to HB 56 at the Occupy Wall Street march on October 5. (Credit: Ted Hesson)

The schools aren’t the only place where the law is having an impact. People looking to pay for basic services like a water hook-up now have to show proof of citizenship. Montgomery’s water authority is now reporting people whom it believes are undocumented to the police for prosecution under the law.

Police have begun enforcing the law against people they suspect of being foreign-born, even though they acknowledge they don’t have proper training in the law and don’t understand the various types of immigration status that people in the United States may have.

The case of the first person arrested under the law illustrates the pattern being seen throughout Alabama. A Yemeni man was arrested as an undocumented immigrant. The authors of the law immediately put out a press release tying him to possible terrorist infiltration of Alabama. Turned out the man was, in fact, in the United States legally. After spending time in jail, he was released and charges were dropped.

Long Island Wins is committed to keeping you informed about the impact the Alabama law. Three Deep South states, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina, have passed Juan Crow laws and Alabama’s enforcement presages what we can expect in those states if their laws ever go into effect.

Next week we’ll look at what the law has meant for Alabama’s economy.

Image courtesy of Schplook via Flickr.

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Patrick Young blogs daily for Long Island Wins. He is the Downstate Advocacy Director of the New York Immigration Coalition and Special Professor of Immigration Law at Hofstra School of Law. He served as the Director of Legal Services and Program at Central American Refugee Center (CARECEN) for three decades before retiring in 2019. Pat is also a student of immigration history and the author of The Immigrants' Civil War.

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