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Fear of Anti-Immigration Law Leaves Empty Classrooms, Idle Farms

November 17th, 2011 | Robert Struckman

More from Alabama, where a delegation of African American labor and civil rights leaders is  investigating the state’s recently passed anti-immigrant law. Follow the delegation here.

A grade school child is there one day and gone the next. Dependable laborers don’t show up to pick crops on a farm.

“It’s incredible,” said local AFT president Vi Parramore.

I have teachers tell me that kids are disappearing overnight. Not unenrolling and leaving. Just all of a sudden gone, just gone! Crops are rotting in the fields!

Parramore shared what she knew at a roundtable at the Beloved Community United Church of Christ in Birmingham, Ala. The roundtable was part of a tour by national African American labor and civil rights leaders to help shed a light on one of the harshest immigration laws in the country and how it invokes inhumanity reminiscent of the Jim Crow South. The delegation has investigated first hand the impact of Alabama’s H.B. 56 on the lives of Latino working families.

Early in the day, the group toured a trailer park. Later, they met with small business owners. Alabama’s punitive anti-immigration law has cast a chill over the state’s Latino population. According to news reports, the new law says that police must report to federal authorities anyone they detain if they have a “reasonable suspicion” the person may be in the country illegally.

The wording of the law has prompted some local governments to threaten to cut off water service to people who can’t prove legal residency and some school officials to scrutinize the legal status of children, news reports said.

At the roundtable, teachers and other spoke about how the law impacted their lives and places of work. The point was to allow national leaders to gain a better understanding of the civil rights implications of the legislation and assess the law’s impact.

Said Parramore of Jefferson County AFT:

It’s a mess, I have to tell you. It really is a mess. It’s the civil rights issue of 2011. How can you treat people like this?

This blog originally appeared in AFL-CIO Now Blog on November 16, 2011. Reprinted with permission.

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