Interviews with a wide variety of groups, from residents, to advocates on the ground, elected officials to church leaders, suggest that the initial exodus wallpaper of immigrants after hb 56 took effect was short lived. When it first went effect, people were afraid to go outside, said Father Tim Pfander, whose. William Catholic Church attracts hundreds of Latino worshippers. Today, i think theyve seen how its enforced and are carrying on with the laws. Few metrics can capture how the changes have impacted the community. But in Albertville, officials noted that the size and demographic breakdown of the towns public school classes are mostly similar to what they were before. The story is similar statewide.
The rulings that forced their hand created precedents that will foil similar laws even faster should they arise. Alabama illustrated that illegal immigrants will respond to changed incentives, mark Krikorian, Executive director of the center for Immigration Studies and a backer of hb 56, told msnbc. But states cant follow through on those changes if the federal government is actively fighting them. Still Here for Alabamas immigrant communities, the early days of hb 56 were a harrowing experience. It was like a disease, jose contreras, who owns a hispanic grocery store in Albertville, recalled. Everyone was panicking and leaving. But as provision after provision fell, it became clear that the original goal of the law to expel the states undocumented immigrants was not going to happen.
Politicians were so eager to arrest undocumented immigrants that they included a provision empowering citizens to sue individual officers caught shirking their enforcement duties. Seven months after the law went into effect, the state legislature passed a round of revisions. No longer were police required to arrest people for failing to produce a license and state residents could no longer sue them as easily. The new law also weakened requirements that residents show proof of legal status when dealing with the state, ending the mass confusion that had roiled state utility companies, courthouses, and other public offices. By this point, however, lawsuits by the justice department, civil rights groups, and Alabama churches were already blocking large chunks of the remaining law. In October 2011, less than two weeks after a judge let hb 56 go into effect, a federal appeals court temporarily halted its requirement that schools ask about students legal status a prime driver of the initial panic. Meanwhile, arizonas sb 1070, the model for Alabamas law, wound its way to the supreme court, where justices blocked police from detaining people just because they suspected they were undocumented, one of several key provisions they struck down. In an effective act of surrender, Alabama settled its various lawsuits in October 2013 and coughed up 350,000 to cover their opponents legal bills.
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Then this new law came out and they got scared. nothing in the law demanded police check the legal status of crime victims or witnesses, a fact Pollard desperately relayed to residents in media appearances, church meetings, and town halls. In fact, the federal government offers temporary visas to crime victims to encourage them to talk. But he couldnt break the fear. Some residents started carrying rights cards stating their intention to remain silent, which theyd hand to officers as soon as they were stopped. Love, the immigration attorney, said he had clients who were warned, incorrectly by police, that theyd have to reveal their legal status to report a crime. .road
Clanton police officer neil Fetner, who became the towns unofficial expert on the law, said he frequently fielded calls from other departments confused by the requirements. There were a lot of false interpretations of the law and then it would change or the courts would rule again, fetner said. For a while it was memorandum city. The law Shrinks, politicians, tired of complaints from business, police, religious leaders and more, quickly called for changes. Ive learned in life that if you make a mistake, you should be man enough to admit it, republican state senator Gerald dial, who voted for the law, said shortly after the mercedes arrest. But fixing it meant backtracking on one of the central pillars of the law.
County attorneys even questioned whether residents needed papers to use their public swimming pool an uncomfortable prospect in a state still haunted by the legacy of segregation. Silencio, there was some irony to the problems public servants rigorous implementation of the law had created. When lawmakers first passed hb 56, they were actually concerned that police might refuse to enforce. A number of police chiefs and sheriffs had strongly opposed the must-arrest provisions because they lacked the manpower to carry them out. . Small town departments with just a few officers on staff were suddenly expected to devote hours of work to individual traffic stops that used to take 20 minutes to resolve.
The departments also had to pay to keep suspected undocumented immigrants in jail while federal authorities looked into each case. I have a problem fundamentally with placing someone in jail over a traffic citation, Brian Stillwell, chief of police in immigrant-heavy clanton, told msnbc. He recalled one particularly frustrating instance in which he was forced to detain a nursing mother in a holding cell over a minor auto violation. Doug Pollard, Albertvilles muscle-bound and mustachioed police chief, actually saw some positives in the new law when it passed. In recent years, buses had been caught in the area dropping off dozens of undocumented workers from Mexico and he found it easier now to coordinate with Immigration and Customs to resolve the cases. But he quickly faced a new problem: Albertvilles Hispanic community stopped talking to the police about anything. If they had a crime committed against them they used to come to us, pollard said.
Anti-Immigrant Front Groups Used in Fight
More unintended consequences emerged, this time from the religious community. Churches complained the laws ban on providing aid to undocumented immigrants could criminalize everything from soup kitchens to Spanish-language sunday services. They were going to change bible school into border patrol, Scott douglas, executive director of Greater Birmingham Ministries, told msnbc. We had fewer Spanish-speaking congregants coming to our organization for help. At courthouses, simple tasks like renewing ones vehicle tags now required proof of legal status, which generated long lines for citizens and non-citizens alike. Utilities were unsure whether they needed to cut off service to residents who couldnt prove citizenship. People couldnt get power or water, movie it was crazy, jeremy love, an immigration attorney in Birmingham, recalled. It got resolved, but it took pressure. Id call managers and tell them it was a civil rights violation.
Normally, this would have been a minor citation. But the driver did not have a license on him, only a german id card, and that triggered what was supposed to be hb 56s most powerful weapon against illegal immigration. Under the law, police were now required to arrest the man, haul him to court, proposal and detain him until federal immigration authorities determined his fate, no matter how long that took. As it turned out, the driver was an executive at Mercedes-Benz. The european car giant was one of several foreign auto companies in the state whose plants provide thousands of much-needed jobs. The incident was soon followed by another traffic arrest involving a japanese honda worker. Together, the auto blow-ups sparked an outcry from the business community, who feared companies would pull out of the state. Pouring salt on the wound, the. Louis Post-Dispatch ran an editorial inviting Mercedes to move their operations to the Show-me state instead of the Show me your papers state.
the day hb 56 passed. If we wait for the federal government to put this fire out, our house is going to burn down. That concern drove alabama to pass the nations toughest legislation but it is not alone in its desire to stem the flow of undocumented workers. Arizona, georgia, and south Carolina have all passed similar laws over the last three years and legislatures around the country are debating more immigration-related bills. If Congress once again fails to pass reform, more states will be tempted to fill the void with measures aimed at either integrating their immigrant communities or kicking them out. But as Alabamas bitter experiment confirms, a go-it-alone approach is no substitute for a federal solution. Car Crash, it took just six weeks after hb 56 went into effect for state legislators to start having second thoughts about their actions. On november 16, 2011, police in Tuscaloosa stopped a driver for not having the proper tag on his rental car.
If self-deportation didnt work there, its hard to imagine where it could. Early reports suggested evernote success: undocumented immigrants appeared to flee alabama en masse. . But two years later, hb 56 is in ruins. Its most far-reaching elements have proved unconstitutional, unworkable, or politically unsustainable. Elected officials, social workers, clergy, activists, and residents say an initial immigrant evacuation that roiled their communities ended long ago. Many who fled have returned to their old homes. Now Alabama is back where it started, waiting for a solution from Washington that may never come. When hb 56 passed, Albertville—where the booming poultry industry had attracted thousands of immigrants from Mexico and Central America—quickly became the national face of the crackdown. . From 2000 to 2010, the number of unauthorized immigrants in Alabama jumped from an estimated 25,000 to 120,000, as migrants flocked to jobs in agriculture, meatpacking, and construction.
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