The entry into effect of Alabama’s HB 56 law, parts of which were upheld a few days ago by a federal judge, will negatively affect the state by causing an exodus of its Latino population.
The restrictive legislation is a legal win for its supporters, who look at illegal immigration through a stereotype-filled, narrow political prism that is far from reality. In practice, the law will have a counterproductive impact exactly in the areas where it is supposed to help, such as the economy and safety.
The hardships this Southern state’s agriculture industry is experiencing because of the shortage of workers are already known. Now the provision requiring schools to inquire about the legal status of newly enrolled students is instilling great fear in the immigrant community, whose members are withdrawing children from school. This negatively impacts the children’s education and costs Alabama federal funds. School authorities estimated that the absence of 231 students-as happened last Thursday-would equal a loss of $2 million in federal funds for the school district.
At the same time, turning police officers into immigration agents who must ask for documentation diverts resources in times of budget cuts. The growth of the population between 1990 and 2009 did not represent an increase in crime, according to federal data. On the other hand, reducing services because of a lack of funds and increasing the work of police as this law requires, do compromise public safety.
The recent decision by Judge Sharon Blackburn eliminated some controversial elements of the state law and cleared the way for others, such as the one requiring educators and police officers to do the work of immigration agents. However, there is still hope that the courts will rule against clauses that have not been implemented yet. We hope this is the case, since it would benefit undocumented immigrants who are now getting harassed, as well as Alabama, which has blindly embarked in a policy that hurts its own interests.