by Jeremy Leaming
One of the nation’s harshest anti-immigrant laws is proving extremely disruptive to families, and nettlesome to enforce.
Alabama is not alone in implementing ill-conceived immigration policy. A federal appeals court has invalidated much of Arizona’s SB 1070. But Alabama’s effort may be the leading example of a poor attempt at reform of immigration policy.
The New York Times reported recently that after a federal judge upheld most of the Alabama law, an “exodus of Hispanic immigrants,” was triggered. In Albertville, Ala., the newspaper reported that undocumented immigrants in mass have left their homes and yanked their children from public schools. The Alabama law, among other things, requires public school officials to verify immigration status of children and parents and report suspected undocumented people to the federal government.
In an editorial, “Alabama’s Shame,” The Times blasts the law as turning the state into the most “hostile” places for undocumented people. Since taking effect, the editorial says, “Volunteers on an immigrant-rights groups’ hot line said that since then they have received more than 1,000 calls from pregnant women afraid to go to the hospital, crime victims afraid to go to the police, parents afraid, to send their children to school.”
Beyond the troubling impact on families, the law is already proving to be difficult to enforce. Even Fox News noted the difficulty, “Alabama’s tough new immigration law is already proving to be quite complicated, even for law enforcement officials. The police chief of a small town in the Appalachian foothills of Alabama didn’t know what to do about checking the immigration status of a Hispanic man his department recently arrested on an old warrant.”
In an ACS Issue Brief released this week, law professor Pratheepan Gulasekaram says supporters and opponents of strict immigration state laws, such as Arizona’s, do agree that “U.S. immigration policy needs fixing.” But reform is reached is the “real problem.”
Gulasekaram writes that strict “enforcement advocates” start from drawing on a flawed conclusion.
Migration has been, and always will be, a fact of human existence. Human movement to find work or reunite with family would be unremarkable, but for the legal construction of political borders between nation-states. But, these man-made demarcations have never, and will never, stem the tide of migrants in search of work and improved opportunities for themselves and their families. Further, the United States relies on, and requires, significant migration to fill its economic needs in both high-skilled and labor sectors. Increased border vigilance and enforcement, combined with a mismatch between actual labor needs and lawful entry visas, has only led to increases in undocumented population, greater number of border deaths, and increases in human smuggling prices paid to cartels and coyotes. These are the hard and uncontrovertable economic, social, and human facts.