Luis Gutierrez: Immigration, Deportation and States' Rights, What Martha Taught Me

A young mother in Alabama, 19, was driving down the street with her infant son when local police stopped her for failure to turn on her headlights. The officers discovered she had no driver's license and she was taken to the station.

That was on a Monday. Her son, a U.S. citizen, was turned over to the Department of Human Resources and, hours later, was reunited with his father, also a U.S. citizen. But Martha, the mother and wife of U.S. citizens, is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who has lived in the U.S. since she was brought here at age 12. She was kept in jail and away from her family until Thursday.

This is partly due to Alabama's new "papers please" immigration law that requires local law enforcement to hold those suspected of illegal immigration, but it could have happened in almost any town in the U.S. that routinely calls immigration authorities when they suspect someone is here illegally.

The local police would probably have let Martha go after paying her fine because she has no criminal record whatsoever, but when contacted, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a federal agency, asked the local police to hold her until they could check her out.

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