A nation-wide network of young undocumented immigrants, their parents and their supporters in Congress are flocking to Alabama to protest that state’s harsh new anti-immigration law.
On Tuesday, about 100 people engaged in an act of civil disobedience at the Alabama state capitol in Montgomery. Thirteen undocumented immigrants, including four parents, were arrested when attempting to deliver a letter to State Senator Scott Beason, one of the main sponsors of the law, HB 56.
In this podcast episode, Feet in Two Worlds reporter Aswini Anburajan speaks with some of the undocumented protestors who had been released from jail earlier on Thursday. Fi2W Executive Producer John Rudolph also speaks with U.S. Representative Yvette Clarke who is heading to Alabama next Monday to lobby against the state law.
By Thursday afternoon, most of the immigrant protesters had been released from jail, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) confirmed that they would not hold any of them in immigration detention. ICE did not elaborate on why the agency is choosing not to detain the undocumented immigrants, but it may have to do with the new deportation guidelines outlined by John Morton, the director of ICE, in a June 17 memorandum. The new policy is intended to focus on deporting high-level criminals who are immigrants, rather than DREAM Act (an acronym referring to the proposed federal bill, the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act) eligible students, the elderly and those with strong family ties to American citizens. But Mohamed Abdolahi, one of the organizers in Alabama who is part of the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, dismissed the new guidelines. The Obama Administration oversaw the deportation of 396,906 individuals in fiscal year 2011, the highest level in ICE’s history.
The controversial Alabama law, which was enacted earlier this year by the Republican-controlled legislature and signed by Republican Governor Robert Bently, requires proof of legal immigration status for “any transaction between a person and the state or a political subdivision of the state.” Critics argue that the provision makes it illegal to provide basic services like sewer, water or electricity to households where undocumented immigrants live.
Certain provisions of the law were suspended by a federal court injunction in October, including one that requires public schools to obtain proof of immigration status from students, but other provisions remain in effect. Members of the Alabama business and agricultural community have criticized the law, complaining that crops go unharvested while immigrant workers flee the state. The economic fallout has caused some Alabama lawmakers to second-guess their support, though the law remains popular among a majority of state residents.
Feet in Two Worlds is supported by the New York Community Trust and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with additional support from the Mertz Gilmore Foundation and the Sirus Fund. Food in Two Worlds podcasts are supported in part by WNYC, New York Public Radio.