published Saturday, October 15th, 2011

Alabama law affects all aspects of immigrant life

Silvestre Juan stands inside his store, Tienda Latino, in Fort Payne, Ala., while discussing Alabama's immigration law.
Silvestre Juan stands inside his store, Tienda Latino, in Fort Payne, Ala., while discussing Alabama's immigration law.
Photo by Jenna Walker.

Alabama unauthorized population

1990: 5,000

2000: 25,000

2010: 120,000

Source: Pew Hispanic Center

Population broken down by race/ethnicity


• Total: 4.8 million

• White: 3.2 million, 67 percent

• Black: 1.2 million, 26 percent

• Hispanic: 185,602, 4 percent

DeKalb County

• Total: 897,934

• White: 586,752, 65 percent

• Black: 186,782, 21 percent

• Hispanic: 73,221, 8 percent

Fort Payne

• Total: 14,012

• White: 10.091, 79 percent

• Black: 21, 0.1 percent

• Hispanic: 2,930, 21 percent

Source: U.S. Census

FORT PAYNE, Ala. -- The full provisions of Alabama's new immigration law have yet to be implemented, but already its impact in the immigrant community -- including fear -- is considered much larger than in other states with similar get-tough measures.

"I don't think we saw anywhere near the level of terror from families and children we are seeing [in Alabama]," said Mary Bauer, legal director with the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., in a telephone news conference last week.

It's been over two weeks since Alabama's law -- considered by many on both sides of the debate as the toughest in the country -- went into effect. Advocates and immigrants say the result has been a climate of fear that affects everything from families and schools to business and agriculture.

In other states, "we've heard stories of families choosing to leave and rotting crops [because farmers can't find laborers], but not wholesale terror and destruction of families," Bauer said. "The other laws didn't have provisions involving schoolchildren, and the most onerous provisions were [blocked by courts]."

Count Valentina Rodriguez among the immigrants who are afraid for themselves and their children.

The single mother worries about what would happen to her 10-year-old daughter if Rodriguez should be stopped by a police officer and detained for being in the country illegally.

Rodriguez went to Niko Services for Immigrants, a Florida-based nonprofit that has an office in Fort Payne, last week to ask what she could do to sign a power of attorney so friends could keep her daughter if she is deported.

"We don't want people to feel sorry for us, but as parents, these are things you think about," said the Mexico native.



Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act

Among other things, school officials are required to check the immigration status of students for reporting purposes. It also allows police officers to check the legal status of those detained for other reasons and to hold suspected illegal immigrants without bond.

It also makes it a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail and $100 fine for a first offense not carrying prove of legal status.

Parts of the law still blocked include making it a crime for an illegal immigrant to solicit work, to transport or harbor an illegal immigrant, and barring drivers from stopping along a road to hire temporary workers.

Source: The Associated Press


A federal appeals court on Friday blocked a key part of Alabama's law that requires schools to check the immigration status of students.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta also blocked a part of the law that allows authorities to charge immigrants who do not carry documents proving their legal status. The three-judge panel let stand a provision that allows police to detain immigrants that are suspected of being in the country illegally.

A final decision on the law won't be made for months to allow time for more arguments.

Source: The Associated Press

Alabama's immigration law took effect Sept. 29 after a federal judge upheld most of it, including requirements that police officers check the immigration status of people they detain for other reasons and that public schools determine the status of their students and report it to the state.

However, the public school provision temporarily was blocked Friday by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.

Nicholas Milano, director of Niko Services, said he's been getting calls day and night from people asking him what they should do.

Bauer said a complaint hotline at Southern Poverty received more than 2,000 calls statewide in less than one week. Calls ranged from sick immigrants who didn't want to drive to a hospital, to parents reporting their Hispanic children being call "wetbacks" and bullied in school, she said.

Is the Alabama immigration law too tough?

Fort Payne City Superintendent of Schools Jimmy Cunningham said he's not aware of anything like that happening in his school district. Children are being enrolled in school regardless of legal status, he said, and the documentation is to be used for reporting purposes only.

But parents are afraid, and there have been reports of children taken out of school or not showing up for class. Hispanic students make up about 31 percent of all students in the Fort Payne school district. Since the law went into effect, 34 of 968 Hispanic students withdrew, Cunningham said.

Merchants along the main street of Fort Payne said business has decreased 40 to 50 percent.

"People are not leaving their homes" because they're not here legally and are afraid of being stopped by police, said Silvestre Juan, a naturalized citizen from Guatemala who operates Tienda Latino, where he sells Latin American products and offers money-transfer services.

Jose Barrios, who was visiting Juan, said he has four brothers who left for Tennessee and Kentucky once the law went into effect. But Barrios said his U.S.-born children, ages 8, 13 and 15, and his home keep him in Alabama.

"My wife and I have talked about it, but we just don't know what to do," said the Mexico native who entered illegally in 1992 and has lived in Fort Payne for 14 years.

He signed a power of attorney giving his brother, a legal permanent resident, custody of his children if he and his wife are deported.

A few blocks from Tienda Latino, Juan Vitela talked about the possibility of closing his store, La Unica Beauty Shop, because business is so bad.

Norberta Vitorio, 48, said she lost her job last week after telling her boss she was afraid to drive.

"He asked me if I was in the country illegally, and when I said 'yes,' he told me I couldn't work there anymore because he could get in trouble," she said.

The Mexico native said she plans to go back to her country in January.

The section of the new law that frightens people most is the provision that gives law enforcement the right to check their immigration status if they're detained on other charges or reasons, residents said. Many fear it can lead to racial profiling. It's also the provision that has been blocked by federal judges in other states, including Georgia and Arizona. But it was not part of the Alabama provisions that were blocked by Friday's court ruling.

Vitela said he left the store with another friend, also Hispanic, last week and was followed closely by a police car. As he made a right turn, he was stopped for crossing into the other lane. He and his passenger were asked for their driver's licenses. Each produced his license but noted that passengers had not been asked for ID before.


Alabama House Bill 56
Alabama House Bill 56

The role of local law enforcement in the new law doesn't concern only immigrants. Police and public officials have their own worries.

"We haven't had any training on it whatsoever," said Fort Payne Police Chief Randy Bynum. "It really means a lot of unknowns; we just don't know how we are going to handle it."

So far they haven't made any arrests under the new law, he said.

Ricky Harcrow, DeKalb County Commission president for 16 years, said the county is in limbo on many aspects of the law, including what is required for people renewing their tags. Do they need to verify legal documentation in person or can they still mail it in?

He also worries about how enforcement may affect local governments.

"The cost of [the law enforcement implementation] can get astronomical," he said. "There are so many things involved ... that can be a nightmare."

The law may be hard to implement initially, but something needs to be done about illegal immigration, Harcrow said.

In justifying the bill, its authors cited the economic hardship that illegal immigration has caused the state in health, education and costs for public benefits.

"Illegal immigration is encouraged when public agencies within this state provide public benefits without verifying immigration status," the bill reads.

Tweak the law?

  • photo
    Nicholas Milano speaks with Valentina Rodriguez inside of his office at Niko Services for Immigrants Wednesday in Fort Payne, Ala. Milano meets with local Hispanics who are concerned or affected about the immigration law and offers advice or legal council. Rodriguez, who is in the country illegally, is trying to change the last name of her child, but is unsure if she is going to be able to do so to do so because of new law bars state courts from enforcing contracts involving illegal immigrants.
    Photo by Jenna Walker /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The Hispanic community in Fort Payne, the largest share of unauthorized immigrants in the country, has grown 86 percent since 2000 -- from 1,574 to 2,930 in 2010 -- attracted primarily by work in the poultry and hosiery industries.

Immigration, legal or illegal, has helped fill jobs that might be hard to fill otherwise, Harcrow said. But he also said immigrants have taken jobs away from people who "probably would have done" the work. Still, he would like to see the law tweaked to include some program or exemption for farmers or poultry growers who need seasonal help, which often is filled by undocumented workers.

"I do think that needs to be looked at on the local level; we know what we need," Harcrow said.

As states get tougher with immigration, farmers have reported crops rotting in the field because they can't get enough workers.

Stephen Talley, from Talley's Farm in Crossville, Ala., said he lost the only Hispanic employee he had on his 12-acre farm, where he grows strawberries and pumpkins. The Mexico native returned to his country with his wife and two U.S.-born children at the end of August, Talley said, when the law originally was scheduled to go into effect. Talley said he wasn't aware of his status.

"Some of the bigger farms are seeing a larger impact, especially apple farmers," he said.

Workers are hard to find, he said.

"During strawberry season I might need five or six people, but from October through April, I don't. I can't supply anyone with s full-time job," he said.

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about Perla Trevizo...

Perla Trevizo joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 2007 and covers immigration/diversity issues and higher education. She holds a master’s degree in newswire journalism from Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, Spain, and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Texas. In 2011 she participated in the Bringing Home the World international reporting fellowship program sponsored by the International Center for Journalists, producing a series on Guatemalan immigrants for which she ...

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TSCinSFO said...

Well this is GREAT news. Should we make illegal aliens comfortable like they do in California and Illinois? Absolutely not. They should live in fear and just go back to Mexico. We have no ethical, financial, and moral obligation to make their lives pleasant and educate any kids other than LEGAL Americans. I'm glad to see some of the illegal aliens are taking their anchor babies with them back to Mexico. Birthright citizenship has to end because it's been abused by illegals as a way to stay here. Now the farmers will just have to pay a living wage to LEGAL Americans and we can stop subsidizing their huge profits. If they can't stay in business without hiring illegal aliens at slave wages so be it. They get no sympathy from me and neither do the illegal aliens "living in fear".

October 15, 2011 at 2:17 a.m.
larwilb60 said...

We NEED jobs! Dont tell me that crops are rotting in the fields when I drive past 3 constructions sites every day & NO non Latino in site? drive past 2 roofing jobs & NO non Latino in site.. drive by 3 house painting jobs every day and might be ONE non Latino and 2 Latinos painting..Strauss Co is the contractor rebuilding the church that burnt on St Elmo Ave and is using a lot of Latinos to do the brick work! Do we not have any LOCAL brick masons???.this in just one neighborhood in Chattanooga...ILLEGAL IS ILLEGAL and using ILLEGALs should be illegal too! ..I will NOT hire a contractor if they do not use locals...PERIOD...

October 15, 2011 at 6:26 a.m.
larwilb60 said...

In reference to this storeowner in the picture with this article, 1. how many White/Black employees does he have? 2. why isnt the signage in his store in ENGLISH? 3. will he use E-Verify when it is mandatory? And it will become mandatory!

October 15, 2011 at 6:29 a.m.
inquiringmind said...

TSCinSFO and your three friends, you say, "Well this is GREAT news... They should live in fear... We have no ethical, financial, and moral obligation to make their lives pleasant and educate any kids other than LEGAL Americans..."

I guess you are right, and I'm sure you are going out of your way to help "legal Americans" get a good education, live pleasant lives down in the projects of Chattanooga, right?

If your shadow crosses the church door then you DO HAVE an ETHICAL and MORAL obligation if you heard anything your pastor said or anything you read. Did did Christ ask his disciples to check a driver's license for citizenship before he said, "Feed my sheep?" What will he ask you? Did you feed my sheep?

Maybe you guys are using the same work ethic these legal and illegal immigrants do (I'm sure you are industrious and starting your own business like the guys in the story) , but I'd be surprised. When you pop a beer today to cheer your Vols, think about what you could do to make it a better place for least share one of your beers with an illegal.

My experience in Atlanta in the 1990's and San Diego in the 1980's is that immigrants work harder on jobs Americans turn their nose at, and they as a group do it with a sense of family values and loyalty that exceeds a lot of what I see is the US. They work under terrible conditions, are abused and taken advantage of by employers, in San Diego live out in the canyons in cardboard lined "caves" dug out of the sides, and manage to send money back to family in Mexico. In Atlanta the contractor working on the house next to mine told me that was his last house, he couldn't get US workers to work the jobs and he didn't speak Spanish.

I'd be surprised to find very many, if any, folks who lost a job to an "illegal immigrant," brickmason, carpenter or whatever; you and your politicians are just pandering to fear and prejudice.

Oh, by the way the color of one's skin or language one speaks has never been a very good absolute indicator of citizenship.

October 15, 2011 at 7:23 a.m.
Emersization said...

This is too bad, because there is most likely a migratory increase of illegals pouring into the Chattanooga area. Many of them do not have automobile insurance, health insurance, and depend on social services such as WIC, EBT (food stamps), public education, etc. My greatest concern is for our public safety and the liability that comes with the vast influx of illegal immigrants. In that, I have to make sure I that I have full coverage collision insurance on my automobile and home. Not only do we have a street gang epidemic, illegal immigrants have become crime targets for robberies. Our police officers and other emergency services have to answer calls for non-Americans just as well. It is widely known that illegal immigrants do not like keeping their money (our money) safe in bank accounts, and this is seen when they hand our large lumps of cash at Western Union hubs. There have been multiple studies on how badly illegal immigrants hurt our economy, yet, the people in Washington insists on being a globalized nation without borders, bowing to humanist dogma.

October 15, 2011 at 8:05 a.m.
Wilder said...

@ emersization You left out about a thousand other reasons. Our immigration laws require health screens for anyone entering the country, because of communicable diseases, like TB and Hepatitas. You may notice that more and more illegal aliens, who have had no screening, or inoculations, work in food preparation, especially fast food restaurants. Our immigration laws were well thought out, and passed for a reasons like this.

People seem to also forget all of the people who are displaced from jobs because they are replaced by bilinguals. Perla, for example, has someone else's slot at the newspaper, and she certainly would not be here, if not for the illegal alien tsunami. Thousands more will be displaced in higher tiers of employment for the same reason.

People should also remember that none of this would be happening if not for the shortsighted, sociopathic individuals who knowingly hire them. If people stop doing business with them, they may get the message. Don't eat at their restaurants, for example, just move on to the next one.

October 15, 2011 at 8:47 a.m.
TSCinSFO said...
<p>@inquiringmind...Your argument is TOTAL GARBAGE. It's Mexicos responsibility to educate, employee, and take care of their own people, Not Americans. Try going to Mexico illegally and they'll throw you in jail and you won't get out until you pay a bribe, then they'll deport you. Other than picking crops in the fields, of which we have prisons full of prisoners that can do it, illegal aliens are doing construction jobs at slave wages that have thrown 1,000's of our own people out of work. Where's you mercy for our own people out of work because of illegal aliens? Don't feed me that religious non-sense. Illegal aliens are committing sins every day that they are here by breaking into our country, stealing identities, forging documents, stealing jobs, etc.

October 15, 2011 at 9:58 a.m.
Wilder said...

@TSCinSFO As I have said before, you should reserve most of your contempt for the people who employ them, and the politicians who are enabling them. They are the prerequisite for all of the ills that we are suffering from the illegal alien invasion. In otherwords, we should remember that this is an inside job.

Don't do business with the people who employ them. Don't vote for the politicians with the slickest commercials and prettiest signs, because whoever paid for them is going to get something in return, and it ain't going to be you.

October 15, 2011 at 10:06 a.m.
Emersization said...

@inquiringmind, do not let your bleeding heart Christian humanism propagate criminal lies that influences more crimes against our society. I have heard stories how everyone needs Jesus, even criminals that take up residence in the highest prison population in the world. NO, we do not need to sit back any longer and tolerate your nonsense. If you love Mexicans so much, then go be a missionary down in Mexico!

TSCinSFO and Wilder I agree with both of your postings -- right on!

October 15, 2011 at 10:24 a.m.
nucanuck said...

Immigrants, whether legal or illegal, simply work too hard. They make American workers look bad. Employers are easily spoiled and after hiring immigrant workers, they begin to think everyone should work that hard. In many cases companies will actually pay more for immigrant labor because of the increase in productivity.

Our immigrant ancestors may have worked hard, but that is not to say that we should have to compete with the unreasonable work ethic of poor people trying for a better life.

Send them all back so our children can work the fields, clean the toilets, and dig the ditches!

October 15, 2011 at 12:08 p.m.
Wilder said...

@nucanuck How hard illegal aliens work is irrelevant. Growing marijuana, a weed, is a lot easier, and more profitable, than growing soybeans, but it is illegal. Cooking meth is a lot more profitable than baking cakes, but it is illegal. Robbing convience stores is a lot easier than working, but it is illegal. Hiring illegal aliens, who work under duress, and dump their families on the rest of us to support, are only profitable for the people who hire them, and that is why it is, and should be, illegal.

Almost none of them work in the fields. That fallacy is complete nonsense. How many of the illegal aliens residing in Chattanooga and NW Georgia work in the fields? You and the media need to make up something else.

All of your bleeding heart arguments are invalid and are not difficult to counter.

October 15, 2011 at 12:58 p.m.
Wilder said...

@tnvolssuckbad In the case of one of Dalton's major carpet mills, the mill furnished them with, and accepted false social security cards. The business owners who hire these people are not being punished, because of their influence on our polticians, and the fact that people continue to buy their products.

If you really want to address this issue, do not buy a service or product from anyone who employs illegal aliens, and let your elected representatives(that's a joke), know your going to throw them out on the streets in the next election.

October 15, 2011 at 1:18 p.m.
01centare said...

cbtole said... "Alabama law affects all aspects of immigrant life." Not at all. It only affects all aspects of ILLEGAL immigrant life.

It's apparent you've not heard or read horror stories about the legal immigrants being arrested and held for weeks, sometimes months, because they look to be from south of the border and assumed illegal? Not an illegal from Russia, Canada or even south of the border who looks caucasion doesn't normally run into such problems. But even legals who are too brown and look too Hispanic have gotten caught up in these sweeps.

October 15, 2011 at 9:35 p.m.
emersonsbaby said...

I don't care where they are from - if anyone is in this country illegally I do not want to support them. We have elderly, veterans, children, and truly disabled Americans that need our help. Legal immigrants welcome - illegal immigrants go home!!

October 15, 2011 at 10:28 p.m.
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