Alabama’s Anti-Immigration Law: What Happened To Putting Children First?

Posted on October 7, 2011 by

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Alabama's anti-immigration laws affecting children

In Montgomery, Alabama, 231 Hispanic children were absent last Thursday, the day the state’s new anti-immigration law took effect.

Last week, Alabama was awarded the dubious honor of being the first state in US history to request documentation of citizenship when enrolling children in school.

I’m not purporting to understand the ends and outs of immigration, legal or otherwise. But from a very undereducated perch I can say that the pieces I’ve read about this law and the radio reports I’ve listened to depict a bleak scene for families.

I also know, that the salad I will make for dinner tonight, for my children, citizens of the United States, will likely have produce picked by the parents of the very children who the law in Alabama is implicitly aimed at ferreting out.

We’ve built a fence along the US and Mexico border. The fence snakes along the shore of The Rio Grande. We’ve placed patrols to play cat and mouse with people willing to risk their lives to come to America to work as cheap labor. Again, from my non-erudite soap box, I think the real reasons for not addressing immigration affectively has something to do with federal ambivalence. Who will pick the lettuce and clean the toilettes?

Robert Bentley, the over-zealous governor of Alabama took the temperature of his state. He found a hot, fearful and xenophobic public ready for his anti-immigration law.

On October 2,  The Christian Science Monitor devoted a column or two to unraveling the genesis and dictates of the law.  Stacy Teicher Khadaroo outlined the finer points:

Effective Thursday, schools are to check birth certificates only when a child is enrolling in an Alabama school for the first time. If officials determine the child isn’t in the US lawfully or if a birth certificate is not presented, they then must ask the parent or guardian to provide other documentation or sign an affidavit about the citizenship or immigration status of the student. If that document doesn’t arrive within 30 days, the school records that child as “enrolled without birth certificate” in the state data system.

The law targets children. The smallest, most defenseless link in the illegal immigration chain. And what’s more? Children as they enter buildings where they are supposed to learn.

Historically, teachers have had the unique ability to meet (in a rudimentary way) the needs of children when their external world could not. Schools often feed children (with federal monies) and school nurses often cloth children.

The teachers and administrators of public schools try to be the villages that raise children. They have continued to try, despite limited resources and being housed inside falling-apart schools. School officials being required to request federal documentation is antithetical to the mission of public school. It teeters toward fascism. Yep, I went there. But Alabama went there first.

In Alabama, school aged children are arriving to school terrified that when they get home their parents, illegal immigrants, will not be home. They’ve heard rumors of busses and trucks coming to round-up their parents. Most of the school-aged children are US citizens, by the way, most of them were born right there, in the counties where they go to school. But a legal child does not legal parents make.

The “data”school offiicials are required to collect? Proof of citizenship. THEN if that is not provided, the child must be documented as not having said proof. But can they attend school? What do the backers of the Anti-Immigration law think? That parents can’t see where such information collection is headed? The fear of families has been characterized as an “overreaction” to a little “data collection” by backers of the law.

Families have no reason to believe that the state won’t start connecting the dots from undocumented child to, duh, undocumented parents. Or documented child to undocumented parents. It’s arrogant of the backers of the law to think anyone would believe they are innocently collecting “data”.

I’m hoping the law will collapse under the weight of exposure…what do you think?

(SOURCE: AP Photo / Jay Reeves)

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Posted in: Kids, Politics