Alabama brags that it has the worst in the nation anti-immigrant law. Now it is starting to feel the economic pain as tens of thousands of Latinos pack up and leave. According to reports from the state, fruit is already rotting in the fields there.
Most parts of Alabama’s immigration law won’t take effect until Sept. 1 at the earliest, yet many people already are reacting to it.
Some unauthorized immigrants have moved from Alabama.
Many are trying to sell sofas, refrigerators and other items to raise money in case the law does survive a federal court challenge and they need to move home or to states without such a law.
Many immigrant parents also are arranging for trusted people to have power of attorney, so that if they are detained under the law, someone will have authority to take care of their kids.
If it takes effect, the law would criminalize their presence in Alabama and make it a crime for them to work here, among other things.
The target population is larger than most Alabama cities: An estimated 120,000 unauthorized immigrants lived in Alabama in 2009 and 2010, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research organization in Washington. At least 60 percent were from Mexico, the center estimated in a report released in February.
State Rep. Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, who sponsored the immigration bill that became law last month, said that, if the law is causing undocumented immigrants to leave, it’s doing what he intended.
“This will create jobs for unemployed Alabama citizens,” Hammon said. “We want to discourage illegal immigrants from coming to Alabama and prevent those that are already here from putting down roots.”
A mass exodus of undocumented immigrants, if it were to occur, would put a dent in Alabama’s work force. An estimated 95,000 unauthorized immigrants worked in Alabama in 2009 and 2010, making up about 4.2 percent of the labor force, the report said.
One of those workers is Julio Hernandez, 30, who works for a scrap metal company and lives in Odenville with his wife, Delgadina. They are undocumented immigrants from Mexico. Their 9-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son were born in the United States and are U.S. citizens.
“I sold my truck and I’m selling my trailer, right now, my land,” he said in translated Spanish. “Right now, I’m wanting to … have that money in case we have to leave, to use it over there, because we’re going to need it to send the kids to school.”
Delgadina Hernandez said she knows of four families who have left or are about to leave Alabama for Mexico.
Domingo Castro, 29, an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala, works at a thrift store in Center Point and lives there with his wife and their two U.S.-born sons, who are 5 years old and 6 months old.
He said he came to the United States 15 years ago because of the poverty in Guatemala. He said he didn’t get documents to be a legal resident here because he had no relatives legally in the United States to help him get papers.
If Alabama’s immigration law takes effect, he said in translated Spanish, “Maybe I’ll go to another state where they don’t have the law.”