The Birmingham News: Alabama's immigration law has led to illegal immigrants around the state having their basic rights denied and should be repealed, a human rights group contends in a report being issued today.
"The initial human impact has been devastating, though the full consequences remain unknown," stated the report, "No Way To Live: Alabama's Immigrant Law," issued by Human Rights Watch.
"A group of people have found themselves unable to live the lives they had lived for many years. Some were barred from access to basic services like water, and many more were told they could not live in homes they own," according to the report.
The 53-page report was based on the group's interviews with more than 90 people in Alabama, including 50 illegal immigrants. Most of those illegal immigrants, according to the report, have lived in the state 10 or more years.
The report does note that courts have blocked enforcement of some sections of the law, that there have been calls by legislators in recent weeks to make changes to the law, and that Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange has suggested changes be made to the law. But that's not enough for the group.
"I think the only way for the law to be fixed is to repeal it altogether," said Grace Meng, researcher with Human Rights Watch and author of the report.
State officials either did not respond to requests for comment or declined to comment because they had not read the report.
For the report, Meng said she and other Human Rights Watch researchers spent 10 days beginning in late October visiting cities around Alabama -- including Birmingham and its suburbs, Albertville, Decatur, Tuscaloosa, Troy, Dothan and Foley -- to document the impact the law had had on the communities and the lives of immigrants since it went into effect in late September.
Among the issues the report addresses is the fear illegal immigrants have in their daily lives and the actions they've taken to avoid detection, including cutting back on travel for church, stopping involvement in school sports, and declining to seek health care. The report includes incidents reported by illegal immigrants of not being paid for their work and of feeling threatened by police officers. Students have reported being taunted at school, according to the report, which quoted immigrants without using their names or by identifying them only with a partial name.
Incidents described in the report included an illegal immigrant from Mexico who described a police officer following his car for three miles before pulling him over a week after the law went into effect. "He (the officer) gave no reason for the stop, but when the driver was unable to produce a driver license, the officer repeated a couple of times, 'I'm going to give you one shot to get out of Alabama. Next time, I'm going to send you back to Mexico.'"
One man also reported that his employer, a restaurateur, refused to pay him wages because of the state law.
Besides calling for Alabama legislators to repeal the law, Human Rights Watch in its report calls for:
• Gov. Robert Bentley and law enforcement to direct state and local officials to ensure that all residents, regardless of immigration status, are able to access necessities such as water and housing.
• Law enforcement officials to train officers on how to avoid racial profiling, and to collect data on police stops and arrests to ensure racial profiling is not happening.
• Strange to ensure that local and state officials implement policies following letters his office has issued that more narrowly interpret some provisions of the state immigration law.
• Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform.
• President Barack Obama to direct the Department of Homeland Security and other U.S. agencies not to participate in enforcing Alabama's law, and to ensure that deportation proceedings are not begun on illegal immigrants arrested under the state law.
• The U.S. Department of Justice to continue investigating any allegations of civil rights violations under the Alabama law.
- Eli Kantor
- Beverly Hills, California, United States
- Eli Kantor is a labor, employment and immigration law attorney. He has been practicing labor, employment and immigration law for more than 36 years. He has been featured in articles about labor, employment and immigration law in the L.A. Times, Business Week.com and Daily Variety. He is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal. Telephone (310)274-8216; firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com and and beverlyhillsemploymentlaw.com