Featured News 2012 Is Alabama’s Immigration Law Harming Alien Students?

Is Alabama’s Immigration Law Harming Alien Students?

Alabama has taken a stand on immigration- a stand so bold that most states won't even echo it. The law is considered the nation's strictest anti-immigration law in practice, and states that if the police have any reasonable suspicion of a person that they confront for any crime, they can demand to see immigration papers. If the person cannot produce legal documentation to the police at that time, he or she can go on trial, and eventually be deported. The police must have a reasonable cause to confront suspects, but they can be stopping the person for any reason.

Whether it's a DUI suspicion, weaving on the road, an expired license plate, loitering, or a broken brake light, the police can use this opportunity to incriminate an illegal alien. The law was signed into practice on June 9th, 2011, and has been the brunt of much controversy since then. This Alabaman law also prohibits aliens from receiving any public benefits provided by the state. That means that the immigrants cannot attend any public college or university. The school officials at the elementary, junior high, and high schools in Alabama have the right to discern whether or not their students are illegal immigrants, and respond to their findings accordingly.

While illegal immigrant school children cannot be banned from their schools, the districts are mandated to submit annual tallies on the suspected number of aliens in the classrooms. This portion of the anti-immigration statute has affected many school children in the state. The Department of Justice recently wrote the Alabama government a letter after six protesters performed a sit-down demonstration near the Alabama Senate Chamber. The letter from the department explained that since the anti-immigration law went into effect, students who were learning English in the class room began skipping class. Eventually, the class participants were absent the majority of the time, and now the students are not receiving the educations that they are legally entitled to.

According to USA Today, the government blocked the portion of the anti-immigration law that says that school officials must tip off the government when they identify an illegal immigrant student. The block was in effect for about two weeks, but the law has had a continuing effect on students, regardless. According to the USA Today news reports, between the beginning of the school year and February of the next year, 13.4 percent of all Alabama's Hispanic students withdrew from school. Others skipped out of classes because they didn't want to be caught and incriminated because of their immigration status. Supposedly, 98.7 percent of Alabama public school students are U.S. citizens, and all but 2.7 percent were born in the United States.

Yet, even with such a large amount of U.S. citizens, Hispanic students are avoiding the classroom. Some speculate that the students feel racially profiled, and don't like to be surrounded with the bias that goes on in the Alabama schools. With teachers scrutinizing their legality, the students feel disrespected and undervalued. While the Alabama schools don't require information on U.S. citizen status or race for enrollment, the new law has still kept Hispanics from enrolling in the public school system. The Justice Department has enforced the 1964 Civil Rights Act on the state, reminding them that schools cannot discriminate based on age, sex, religion, color or race under Federal law.

The Department of Justice will continue to research the Alabama anti-immigration law to see if it holds true to the values set up with the Civil Rights Act in 1964. An Alabama Senator told USA Today that the Department of Justice is on the side of illegal immigration, but there are others who do not support to law. The protestors who motivated the Department of Justice to write their letter prayed and exclaimed that the law was unfair and racially unjust. They wore T-shirts that cried "Repeal Alabama's Pain" on them. The protestors were detained for their demonstration, but they were not arrested.

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