I just read a report on how Alabama’s new immigration policy is impacting the state. Schools are watching their enrollments fall as students are taken out. Businesses that rely on immigrant labor are stagnated as production grinds to a halt. In the middle of the harvest season farmers can’t find workers to pick produce that will rot in the fields. Repairs on homes in Tuscaloosa that were hit by tornadoes earlier this year has stopped. It is estimated that there are nearly two hundred thousand Hispanics in the state and about a fifth of that population has left or is planning to leave because of fear. And this is just the beginning. The law hasn’t been in place an entire week yet.
Alabama’s new immigration law was supposed to keep undocumented immigrants from taking jobs from the documented immigrants that were in the state. That might sound like a worthy reason. However, in practice it is begging to look like a real shit disturber. Documented workers weren’t complaining that their undocumented counterparts were a problem. If anything, they quietly worked, lived, and hung out with their undocumented compatriots with the understanding that there was plenty of work for them to go around. You couldn’t tell the two apart unless you asked. And the new law gave authorities the right to ask anyone suspected of being undocumented. Yes you might be here legally, but people won’t know that for sure unless they are given the go ahead to harass these people without cause.
Why the hell would they want to stay in an environment where people want to treat them as if they were criminals? Yes, somebody in their midst might be breaking the immigration law. But you cannot say that all of them might be breaking the law and therefore they all are subject to being searched and seized if the search shows them to be seize-able. Being of Hispanic descent or looking as if one is of Hispanic descent is not a crime and is not a reason to be suspected of a crime. White people might look like they come from Europe or Canada. Nobody is advocating that they be searched. Black people look like they come from South America. While police have a plethora of other reasons to illegally stop and search black people, nobody says that the black person looks like a foreigner and needs to be checked. Nobody wants to find out of the person who looks Asian is from Asia. This behavior seems to be targeted to Hispanics. And now, Alabama needs to live with unintended consequences.
If somebody made it all the way from Mexico to Alabama without the proper documentation, I’m pretty sure that person can make it out of Alabama just as easily. When I lived in Texas my house was surrounded by homes filled with extended Hispanic families. While some of the people in the houses spoke English fluently, others spoke broken English and some spoke no English at all. Ask what color was the shirt they were wearing and they would smile and say yes. But who cared? If I needed something moved in a pinch I could ask them for their help and they were always eager to do so. Like any neighbors some days were better than others. But for the most part, you could do far worse.
You could wake up one day and everybody in the house would be gone. A few days later the landlord would have a FOR RENT sign in the front. A few days after that, we would be welcoming a new family to the neighborhood. It was as if those homes were reserved for Hispanics. I’m sure the same thing happened in Alabama. At least until they passed that messed up law. It’s only a matter of time before those homes, apartments, trailers, and rooms for rent that seem to be reserved for Hispanics will be vacant and sit idle for a good while. The landlord won’t have his income, the businesses won’t have the workers to conduct business, and the impact will ripple through the rest of the state’s economy.
Alabama officials might try to stick to their explanation of trying to protect the employment market from people who aren’t playing fair. The way these people tell the story the person staying here without the proper documentation is just a thief. But the reality is that the undocumented worker is filling a void in our community. Sure, there are unscrupulous people who are here illegally. But let’s not throw out the undocumented baby with the bathwater. Because when these people see that they’re not wanted and that the deck is stacked against them, they can take their services and their money elsewhere. We already have laws to deal with undocumented people. We don’t have to go on the offense and profile them so that we can justify our bigotry.
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