An official from the Alabama city of Albertville – which has become a flashpoint for the effects of the state’s new immigration law – says the absence of scores of students from the local schools was good for the community.
“A large portion of the illegal Hispanic community has moved, self-deportation is a real thing,” City Councilman Chuck Ellis is quoted as saying in the website The Daily Caller. "It is amazing to see the effects" of the law.
Ellis said the drop in school attendance by the children of migrant workers would alleviate overcrowding in classrooms.
The national news website said Ellis said that some 150 children apparently had left the school district, and he expected that as many as 500 more might leave out of their parents’ fear of being arrested and deported.
“It is tough on those kids,” Ellis said, according to The Daily Caller, but the councilman added that teachers would have more time to help other Hispanic students improve their English.
Albertville’s student exodus has grabbed national headlines as one of the more visible, immediate effects of HB 56, termed the strictest state-level immigration law in the United States.
The exodus, which began when the law was just a proposal, intensified after a federal judge in Birmingham recently upheld most provisions. Key parts left intact were those allowing police to check immigration papers during traffic stops and schools to check the status of students during enrollment.
Ellis also said that unemployment in Marshall County, where Albertville is located, had slipped to 9.3 from 9.5 in the last month. He said that employers in the county were hiring eligible workers in the aftermath of the enforcement of the law.
“A lot of meat-packing plants that have been using migrant workers are beginning to be more stringent in checking things,” Ellis said, according to the website.
Immigration advocates from Alabama, and around the country, have condemned the law, saying it presents “a crisis.”
During a telephonic press conference Thursday, Auburn [Alabama] University professor Pamela Long said: “I’m witnessing a lot of fear among immigrant families including families that own small businesses and employ taxpaying workers.”
“They have revitalized the state with their hard work and entrepeneurship...As an educator, my duty is to educate students not check their immigration status.”
Jack Kane, a Catholic pastor and the director of Hispanic Ministry for the Archdiocese of Mobile in Alabama, said in the press conference: “Everybody is suffering and the children are suffering the most. It is a dark day for Alabama and for America when politicians praise a law that dehumanizes people and pushes children out of school.”
Those who favor strict immigration enforcement have been equally emphatic in their praise of Arizona’s law, saying that the federal government’s inaction on enforcing immigration laws and securing U.S. borders have forced states to take matters into their own hands.
Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks, a Republican, told the website POLITICO that the exodus of undocumented immigrants from schools and jobs was exactly what his state’s law intended.
“Those are the intended consequences of Alabama’s legislation with respect to (undocumented immigrants),” Brooks said according to POLITICO. “We don’t have the money in America to keep paying for the education of everybody else’s children from around the world."
"We simply don’t have the financial resources to do that. Second, with respect to (undocumented workers) who are now leaving jobs in Alabama, that’s exactly what we want.”
Follow Elizabeth Llorente on Twitter: @LlorenteLatino