A tough new Alabama law targets illegal immigrants and sends families fleeing
Other states, including Arizona, Georgia and Colorado, have passed similar laws in the past several years in a growing trend by state legislatures to crack down on illegal immigration within their borders in the absence of comprehensive federal action. But Alabama’s new law is the toughest passed so far, and it is the only one to withstand federal lawsuits and other legal challenges, allowing it to take virtually full effect.
Across Alabama, news of the court ruling has swiftly spread panic and chaos among trailer parks and working-class areas where legal and illegal immigrant families from Mexico and Central America — as many as 150,000 people, by some estimates — live and work at jobs their bosses say local residents largely refuse to do.
Alabama, a largely agricultural state, has long relied on seasonal Mexican farm laborers to harvest peaches, tomatoes and other crops under temporary guest worker visa programs. What has made the past decade different, officials said, is a surge of illegal immigrants who have put down roots, taken permanent jobs at low wages and drained public health and education budgets. Officials estimate the state spends about $280 million per year on public services for illegal immigrant families.