Alabama's Immigration Law is an Unprecedented Attack on Children and Families
October 3, 2011
To listen to this press conference please visit: http://tinyurl.com/AlabamaChildrenFamilies
Washington, D.C. — Representatives from children, family and faith organizations gathered on a national press conference on October 3 to denounce Alabama’s stringent immigration law as a sweeping attempt to frighten the immigrant community and tear families apart. Last week a federal judge in Alabama refused to block the toughest provisions of Alabama’s immigration law, H.B. 56, effectively becoming the harshest immigration law in the nation. Under the law, police is authorized and to question and arrest individuals they “reasonably suspect” are in the country illegally and people and businesses—including utilities companies—are prohibited from entering into business contracts with unauthorized immigrants. Alabama also became the first state in the nation to require school officials to ask children enrolling for the first time about their immigration status and that of their parents.
Panelists raised concerns about the negative impact of the Alabama law on women and children. The March 2010 Community Population Survey, U.S. Census, estimates that in 2009, 79,000 children in Alabama lived in immigrant families. According to the most recent KIDS COUNT data, among children in immigrant families nationally, 88 percent are U.S. citizens.
Mary Olivella, Vice President of MomsRising, a national, state-based grassroots organization working to build a truly family-friendly America to increase the economic security of all women and families said, “Right now across our country there are many strong disagreements about how our immigration policies should be revised.” She added, “But at MomsRising we hope that Americans can agree to uphold a vision that all children and their mothers should not be abused nor suffer from human rights violations. Our common humanity needs to be our guiding vision. However difficult, we must work to advance cool-headed, fair-minded approaches to building our nation where businesses and all families can thrive.”
Wendy Cervantes, Vice President of Child Rights Policy at First Focus expressed her disappointment with the federal judge decision to allow the requirement for schools to determine the immigration status of students and parents because it interferes with schools’ primary responsibility, which is to educate children. “HB 56 directly threatens the education, safety, and overall well-being of children in Alabama. This law turns school officials into government agents, and diverts limited resources away from teaching Alabama’s children,” said Cervantes.
Already, schools throughout Alabama have seen a dramatic drop in their Latino enrollment—which also threatens to impact funding for the schools. Education officials in Alabama estimate that if students don’t come back to school, they risk losing up to $2 million of school funding.
Linda Tilly, Executive Director of the VOICES for Alabama’s Children, an Alabama-based children’s advocacy organization issued this statement, “We are concerned that many children who were born in this country and are U.S. citizens are now afraid to attend school because they have family members who lack documentation. The failure to educate children who now are afraid to come to school is a loss for us all.”
Faith leaders also expressed their concerns about how the new law could implicate people carrying out ministries of mercy. “The law could negatively target churches; the language is so broad that there will likely be unintended consequences that could deter well-meaning individuals and organizations from engaging in the very acts that they feel compelled to carry out because of Christian love or duty,” said Matthew Soerens, U.S Church Training Specialist of World Relief, the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals. “This law leaves the church in a quandary as church leaders often have to find care for these children who are left behind,” added Soerens.
Greater Birmingham Ministries, a multiracial organization representing 20 different faith groups, including the Alabama Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and Sixteenth Street Baptist Church provided the perspective of communities in faith in Alabama. “It is significant that black churches, white churches and brown churches are coming together to overturn this unjust law that threatens our community,” said Scott Douglas, Executive Director of Greater Birmingham Ministries. “Today, our mission and the missions of many religious groups across Alabama have been made impossible by the Alabama immigration law.”