Alabama Immigration Law


LUCKY SEVERSON, correspondent: Like many church leaders in Alabama, Father Tom Ackerman of the Catholic Diocese of Birmingham was caught off guard by the toughness of the state’s new immigration bill.

FATHER TOM ACKERMAN: I think there was some surprise about how extreme it was and how really sort of vicious it was, particularly some of the vicious rhetoric: “We want to affect every aspect of their lives. I’ll do everything short of shooting them.” These are senators and representatives saying these things.

SEVERSON: Here’s what Mayor Lindsey Lyons of Albertville, Alabama had to say about the bill’s critics.

post01-alabamaimmigrationMAYOR LINDSEY LYONS: When they say that we’re cruel or heartless or however they want to word it, you know, the fact of the matter is, we have rights. We have rights to protect our citizens, and what is wrong with coming up with solutions to protect our citizens, to protect our jobs. and to protect our quality of life?

SEVERSON: The solution the legislature came up with has caused quite a commotion. A federal judge temporarily blocked the enactment of House Bill 56 because of several lawsuits filed by four Alabama bishops of different denominations, the Justice Department, the ACLU, civil rights groups, joined by county sheriffs and 16 foreign governments. But some of the loudest protests came from church leaders like Pastor Angie Wright of the Beloved Community United Church of Christ.

PASTOR ANGIE WRIGHT: If I have ten undocumented persons in my church for an English-as-a-second-language class, or for worship, or vacation bible school. and I know that they’re undocumented, I can go to prison for 10 years and pay a $15,000 fine.

SEVERSON: In a nutshell, the bill, as it stands now, criminalizes working, renting, having false papers, shielding, harboring, hiring. and transporting undocumented immigrants. It also deprives them of most local public benefits. As it was intended, it punishes just about every aspect of illegal immigration.

post02-alabamaimmigrationFATHER ACKERMAN: The reason why we’ve filed this suit is because we want to keep the government out of our business. The government is trying to tell us what we can or can’t do in terms of works of mercy, works of charity, which are fundamental to our faith.

REPRESENTATIVE DAN WILLIAMS: Coming up on the left is where most of the Hispanics worked in town. This was the poultry processing plant.

SEVERSON: Representative Dan Williams was Mayor of Athens, Alabama for 18 years until he ran for the legislature 3 years ago. He supports House Bill 56.

REP. DAN WILLIAMS: The vast majority of people, when I was running for this office, the number one or two issue with them was illegal aliens. That’s it. Illegal aliens: “You need to do something about them. We want something done about them.”

post03-alabamaimmigrationSEVERSON: Williams was elected with the first Republican sweep of both houses in the legislature and the governorship in Alabama history. The new legislators quickly hammered out an immigration law, one that terrifies Janeth, an undocumented mother of two from Mexico who has been in the US for more than ten years. She’s a cashier in a store. Her husband works in construction.

JANETH ( with translator Helen Rivas): It’s terrorizing. Ever since they passed this law we don’t go out. We don’t go to restaurants, we don’t go to the park. We see a patrol car, and it terrifies us to think they may stop.

SEVERSON: She and her husband are buying their home at a very high mortgage rate. The new bill would allow the bank or anyone they have a contract with to cancel the contract, and they would have no recourse.

JANETH: I came here because my family didn’t even have any way to eat. To get this we’ve worked day and night, three jobs. If I have to leave here, one day to the next, if this law goes into effect I’m going to have to leave my house, my car. We’re going to arrive back home in our home countries in worse shape.

post04-alabamaimmigrationPASTOR ANGIE WRIGHT: Why make criminals out of people who have been our neighbors and our brothers and sisters and really are not causing any problems for any of us?

SEVERSON: An Alabama criminal justice survey found that violent crime in the state is down 10 percent over last year and below the national average. Property crime is also down. But Albertville Mayor Lyons says those statistics don’t hold up in his town.

MAYOR LINDSEY LYONS: When you have people coming from other countries that’s never driven a car before, and they start driving here with no insurance, no driver’s license, etc, causing multiple, many accidents.

SEVERSON: But, he says, that wasn’t the worst of it.

MAYOR LINDSEY LYONS: Because invariably you’re going to have the underlying current of crime and criminals come in with an influx of illegal immigrants, and that all is based on prostitution and brothels, your drug activity and your drug gangs, which have been present here in Albertville. That’s like it is in any community where you have the immigrant issue.

SEVERSON: He says hundreds of illegal immigrants moved in after Albertville-based poultry companies advertised in Mexico looking for cheap labor.

post05-alabamaimmigrationMAYOR LINDSEY LYONS: We had probably with our large two poultry plants here 2500 employment. They were vast all white and black American citizens, okay, and as the years went on and they were able to conduct business with the illegal alien population, well that just dwindled down, dwindled down, dwindled down.

SEVERSON: The Pew Hispanic Center estimates there are between 85,000 and 120,000 undocumented immigrants in Alabama, comprising a little less than 4 percent of the workforce. The state’s unemployment rate is above the national average at about 10 percent.

FATHER ACKERMAN: We have high unemployment not because the Hispanic immigrants are here. We have high unemployment because the housing market went bust, and we had a credit crisis. The immigrants have nothing to do with the high unemployment here. I think it’s primarily politicians preying on the fear of people. When economic times get tough, people often look for scapegoats.

REP. DAN WILLIAMS: You know, I go back “it’s the economy stupid,” that’s what it always is and people can say what they want to, but when you got a job and you’re making some money and your family is doing alright, you don’t have problems. But when my children lose their jobs, and I start having to help my children and my grandchildren, and maybe if I lose my job, I’m concerned about a guy who’s illegal coming here working. He’s doing okay and I’m not.

post06-alabamaimmigrationSEVERSON: The legislation authorizes police to demand papers from people they stop who they suspect are undocumented, something opponents say will lead to racial profiling. That’s already happening, according to Father Ackerman.

FATHER ACKERMAN: One of our priests actually has been stopped several times, pulled over. And then once they see that he has a collar on, “Oh, Father, go ahead.”

SEVERSON: Religious leaders are concerned that they will be breaking the law if they transport members they know are illegal to church.

FATHER ACKERMAN: If we’re transporting illegal immigrants, that’s a violation of this law, and those vehicles can be confiscated.

SEVERSON: Representative Williams says he thinks religious leaders’ opposition to the bill is overblown.

REP. DAN WILLIAMS: I don’t think you’re going to see policemen stopping the church buses to see if there’s somebody with brown skin riding to Sunday School.

FATHER ACKERMAN: If that wasn’t going to happen then they should have written that into the law. I’m talking about how the law is written, not how they expect it to be applied.

post07-alabamaimmigrationSEVERSON: Williams says he and his Republican colleagues have been called racists and that it’s unfair.

REP. DAN WILLIAMS: People still look at Alabama, and they see those grainy films from the 1960s and the police dogs and the water hoses in Birmingham. Well, Alabama is not like that anymore, but they’re trying to bring this back, that that’s what we are.

Speaker at rally: I myself overwhelmingly love this country.

SEVERSON: The young man speaking here, Victor, was brought here by his parents when he was a toddler. Victor is undocumented and part of a group of high school kids calling themselves Dreamers, who have been very vocal against the law because they’re the one’s who will likely suffer the most if they or their parents are deported. This is Jose. He’s undocumented. He says his dream was to become a teacher or a doctor.

JOSE: I came here at the age of 3. In all honesty, Mexico, it seems like a foreign world to me, and with all the problems it has now it’s frightening, the thought of having to go back there.

SEVERSON: Eduardo has his papers, unlike many of his friends.

EDUARDO: I’m mostly sad because I’ve got papers and then my friends, most of them are going to have to go back to their country or whatever, and I’m here lucky, being able to have the education and all the benefits they can’t.

REP. DAN WILLIAMS: You know, we’re all trying to get along. We’re all trying to raise our children, our grand children and everything. It’s just, you got that “illegal” word there that makes a difference.

SEVERSON: The judge who stayed the enactment of the law says she will issue her decision by September 29th. Regardless of the outcome, it is likely to be appealed.

For Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly, I’m Lucky Severson in Birmingham, Alabama.

  • stevo1

    When did we lose our common sense? Our Government, has allowed the invasion of 30 million criminals in direct violation of Article IV, Section IV of our Constitution. they force American tax payers to pay Billions to provide Welfare, Prison cells, Educate the invaders children, free medical care,massive document fraud, & are destroying our schools, hospitals, communities, culture while Robbing, Raping, Killing & Assaulting American Citizens WE ARE BEING INVADED! WAKE UP PEOPLE!
    An education is a good thing.

    Every Non-representative including obama and holder are not upholding the oath of office! they swore to defend the Constitution! If these clowns were to do their job, this would all be a Moot point!
    Anchors and their criminal parents go, period, you knew you were breaking the law when you crossed the border.

    Next shut down any business hiring illegal labor. Oh and owners go to jail.
    Got a better idea? Lets hear it!

  • donna

    This is just wrong,wrong,wrong. We are going backward instead of forward. not many years ago, it was another culture. I was born in Alabama and i do not agree with this Bill and hate it has come to this.
    . Father Ackerman please continue to pray God will intervene. Fiat!!!!!!!!!!! Have everyone pray for everyone now,past, and future that is or will be affected.

  • Delaware Bob

    The purpose of the law is to get you to return to your own country where you belong. Let’s hope the judge will see things the same way.

    Let’s face it. Our Federal Government has failed all of us in not enforcing our immigration laws. Look at how many anchor babies, (illegal alien children), the American taxpayers have paid for. Was it about 4.2 million over the last 16-18 years? Maybe this is something that should be written about. Then we have to school these illegal alien children, the parents (parent) go on welfare, get food stamps, public housing and everything else. What does this cost the American taxpayer? How about the stolen identities, forged documents and fake green cards. Well, you can’t blame the illegal aliens completely. We do have these UNAMERICAN people who hire these illegal aliens. Of course we have these illegal alien students who are DEMANDING we pass the DREAM Act so we can pay for their college tuition. How about the demonstrations of these illegal aliens DEMANDING we give them amnesty. Who do these people think they are? They have no right to be in this country, yet they are DEMANDING, yes, DEMANDING we give them amnesty. Well, I am DEMANDING we get our immigration laws ENFORCED! Look at the costs of deporting these illegal aliens. Look at the costs of the trials and jailing of these illegal aliens. Look at the costs of the law suits by la raza and the aclu. Oh, don’t forget the Catholic Church. Look at the BILLIONS sent out of this country by the illegal aliens. How does that help America? When is this all going to end? I will tell you. It will end when we get rid of all the illegal aliens.

  • Sara

    How many citizens are lining up to work in a slaughterhouse for terrible pay?
    How many citizens are lining up to pick produce in the heat for a pittance?

    I wish politicians would quit acting like undocumented workers are taking “American” jobs.

    Reagan, a paragon of Republican “sensibilities”, granted amnesty. I say it’s time for another one.

    Schools in Alabama are funded by sales taxes, not property tax. Undocumented workers are supporting the schools, too.

    If you want to keep crime low, try letting the children attend school without having to worry about their parents being deported. School is better than on the streets. This law requires schools to keep records of undocumented children. I worry that parents will keep their kids home.

    As an Hispanic and citizen of Alabama, this law makes me shake with rage

  • Judith

    Anyone working two or three jobs isn’t “making it.” Getting rid of illegal aliens isn’t the answer. Changing, or enforcing, regulatory laws governing corporations, requiring those who send their capital gains to pay as much tax as the rest of us, and jobs programs, are what will aid citizens. Let’s not place our hope in the illusion that our economic or criminal problems lay with a single group of people.

  • alabama

    bob i agree with you. I think everybody should have the chance to better themselves but do it the right way, pay taxes, be documented, learn english. I’m tired of paying for people that doesnt pay taxes and these people can file income tax and get money back even tho they didnt put nothing in it. They are getting mcaid, food stamps and every kind of state help, when citizens cant get the help cause they are citizens. i hope this law does past in my state

  • Jim H

    My wife and I enjoy Rel. & Ethics program very much but I can’t tell you how disappointed, frustrated and angry I got listening to this report. Your correspondent Lucky Severson use of the word “undocumented” instead of the correct term “illegal” was discusting. Yes they are undocumented, but the reason is they did not get the proper documents to be here legally so they are “illegal”. The one young man you interviewed said he was in this country legally, he had documents which only proves it can be done and should be done. Please stop succuming to the PC pressure in your use of terms that are simply inaccurate. And please tell the pastors/priests who were on the program that we are to obey the laws of the land. I was not born in this country, but when I came here I applied for a resident visa and got it, after I was drafted into the US Army as a Canadian citizen I applied for citizenship and got it.

  • John Ensslen

    I agree if any state or US Federal government steps in on rights of undocumented workers Then throw them out of of the State Ousting was permitted by the old church centuries ago We must are not bewitching these type of citizens however if the Church steps in to do mercy work for human beings What is the State and US Federal governments going to do ? This rule is unfair I believe undocumented or illegal people do have rights Yet i say let the Courts decide on this maybe there ought to be U.S. amendment Just like native Americans or Afro Americans Are they citizens or not Do they must be speak write and read American English? I can not justified the rights of others no matter they are undocumented or illegally here or not. Every day immigration is happening over the Mexico border to United States This must be more of a problem than a solution You just watch the shows on NAT. GEO. TV You’ll see what I mean. If they have child here in United States is it citizen or not It was born from undocumented citizens Like I said it will be the US Courts to decide this and make congress change the laws .

  • Rod

    If the U.S. wants to symphatized to these illegal mexicans, open the border, get rid off the border patrol. Let all mexicans coming in including drug cartels, and let see what’s gonna happen in the U.S. All i can say, we have stupid and idiot liberal lawmakers and supporters. According to survey, “mexicans and other hispanic people” have the largest number of prisoners in the U.S. because they are largest gangsters.

  • James Farley

    I feel tht this law is not fair at all. Not because of just anything, but what about the kids that were brought over here at a young age. They are now teenagers and his is the only life they know. And thy have to fear getting thrown out of here. What makes any of us any better than them? And besides why was this country originally started? Because people wanted a better life. That’s all they want. I’m totally against it. Instead of being so harsh make it easier to let them become legal and then thy can be taxed just like everyone else. Then your all happy

  • kathy

    you dont know how hard it is to have some take your job because they feel sorry for you yes im american and ithink law is great we need jobs and yes i would work in a slaugther house on a farm really do they offeer us that no and yes the iilegal get benfit they dont need we give the world money but not our on citzen it wrong alabama need this law and yes we had immgration law in lace it juust need to be inforce shame on you they have beautful country there and they ha djobs if they quit pummping babies out really america wake up forginer will take over and eat youll go hunger they need to go home are get legal stop taking up our jobs and education free noway im for the law

  • Nismo

    I’m my opinion everyone on here who is saying they should pass the law and they are legal don’t make me laugh America was founded on immigrants (Pilgrims) if you fast foward Italians illegally immigrated here so did the Chinese and every other race when they were in their own economic struggle. Since that happened many generations ago no one acknowledge s that and crime back then was the same caused by illegal immigrants from other countries. I do believe a law of some sort should be passed but for illegal immigrants who have a bad record in their countries should be deported and u.s. should ask Mexico and all the countries that want to sue to hand over their criminal records to the u.s. and every illegal person caught and has a record be deported and the one who doesn’t just have them finger printed on a digital database to keep up with their records and maybe the ones showing exceptionally good record should be considered for amnesty. This is my opinion but what I hate the most is people saying this is THEIR country, no one owns the land GOD owns everything. Think of it this way you might have a step father and a biological father if you where raised with your step father for the rest of your life you consider him your real father. That’s how I see illegal immigrants see the u.s. they might have been born in other countries but being here so long they call here home now good people that is.

  • otis

    all the complaining about this law is just a smokescreen that people are using to hide the fact that they are aiding and abetting illegal activities. it’s called illegal immigration for a reason. if someone can not obtain legal documents to get into this country, we should be asking ourselves “why were they denied a visa?”. there are specific guidelines in place that determine if someone can enter this country. they were put into place to insure the safety of our country and its people. it would be poetic justice if the people complaining about this law found themselves victimized by “undocumented” criminals, like too many other american citizens already have.

  • Felix R. Mendez

    Hypocritical lip-service to long-held Christian values; Hate of anything Hispanic; Fear of becoming a minority; Signs of clear decaying of this society; are all factors in this “law.” When politics is allied to hate and bigotry, disaster is in the making.

  • Jackie

    I think the United States should be more careful about whom they allow into this country period. Not just the Hispanics. What about all the rest of the illegal immigrants. It’s just way to easy to get into this country, which makes us so much more vulnerable to terrorist attacks. If the people we put into office passes these bills, I feel that the laws should be enforced. No one is saying that they can’t come here, just that they need to do it the right way. Also, it would be beneficial if they at least knew the language. Do you know how frustrating it is to make an important business call and not understand what they are saying? Sometimes I feel like I’m the foreigner. It’s amazing how the law applies to the same situations, differently. If I broke the law, guaranteed, I would be hauled off to jail lickety split

  • Alicia

    For the morons on here saying that illegal immigrants are using up all the states benefits such as food stamps, medicare etc… please get an education an learn that illegal immigrants cannot get any of these benefits and also the one that left the message regarding illegal immigrants not having to pay taxes if you knew anything at all you would know that illegal immigrants get a TIN number (Tax identification Number) to file their taxes and pay their taxes which also goes to the state’s benefits that they cannot receive. If you are going to leave a message on here please get your facts right in the first place. Thank-you.

  • London

    The very word illegal means one without documentation to legally live and work in this case. Therefore they must be legal to get a TIN number. Many illegal workers use forged documents and fakes to obtain work and government assistance. Many legal immigrants do however get government benefits such as foodstamps and subsitazed housing & business loans. In addition there are many non-profit organizations that work within the community directing immigrants to food banks & low income housing & health clinics. Not sure why all you info is so off/ incorrect, however I know mine is not for I have set through legal immigrant advocate training recently and learned this.

  • Fred

    London. you are wrong you don’t have to be legal to get a TIN number. TIN numbers are for illegal people and are for the sole purpose of paying taxes.

  • Alecto

    In addition to the measures taken in Arizona and Alabama, we must strip any church which subverts our laws of its tax-exempt status. When priests and pastors care nothing for the plight of Americans by whose sweat they receive the money which supports their churches, ti’s time to punish them. Cutting off all donations from citizens is one way to shut them up and stop this criminal conspiracy. Disobeying laws has consequences and it’s time these churches found that out. I have stopped contributing to my local Catholic Church completely because I’m sick of the Anglo-bashing from the morons in the clergy.

  • W. Martin

    I suppose when the illegals die and go to heaven they don’t have to follow rules there either, they can just dig tunnels under the Pearly gates? Wait, isn’t your name suppose to be written in The Book Of Life..Wow, sounds a lot like having ID that says your legit.

    Another thing, there are hundreds of blogs by people who are living (Americans who have moved) in Mexico and love it. It’s definately not just one big drug war. Follow the money..

  • C. Holloway

    I have watched the progression of this law and its consequences as a bystander. My mom is from Birmingham, and she left in the 60′s to avoid the racial violence erupting against her and other African Americans. I used to think I was blessed to have not lived during this time. No doubt, as a young African American male, my life would have been a living hell. I thanked God for blessing me with the sacrafices that the previous generation made on my behalf, and vowed to make good on their contribution. In hindsight I did not know that I would live to see a dark chapter in Alabama’s history relive itself. The protagonist are the same…powerful white interest, filibustering the validity and dignity of a less powerful minority. What we are seeing is Jim Crow intimidation in place of real, modern day, win win solutions. No one disputes the fact that there are undocumented aliens in our country….what is at question, is whether we our solutions for dealing with such an issue have evolved, along with our technological, educational, and industrial progress. Solutions that are racist and targeted at dehumanizing others will only lead to less than optimum outcomes. Alabama, with the passge of this law, has put our nations charachter on the line, and ironically has punched my card to step into the task of helping to defend the defensless, much as my ancestors did in the same state, not so long ago.

  • E.Patrick Mosman

    Every government official who is takes an oath of office starting with the President swears to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States which includes the laws passed by Congress and signed by the President. There are laws for controlling immigration which are not being enforced by the Federal government and just because the Federal government fails to perform its Constitutional duty does not grant religious organizations the right or the duty to aid and abet law breakers.
    “The reason why we’ve filed this suit is because we want to keep the government out of our business.” is a false rationalization that government failure to enforce immigration laws,ie, staying out of its own Constitutional duties,
    justifies charitable acts by others for illegals.
    When we were taught civics in grade school we learned that America was a nation of laws. Unfortunately winking at or failure to enforce laws leads to lawlessness and the ultimate breakdown of civilized societies.
    The argument that “America is a nation of immigrants’ fails to state that the vast majority were legal immigrants and that immigration police patrolled the streets of New York and other major cities stopping and asking people on the street for their “Papers”. Those who could not provide documents were arrested, sent to Ellis Island or other entry/exit points and deported.
    America needs legal immigrants and the sooner the government and industry stop the flow and support for illegals the better this country’s future will be.

  • Arthur Ficachi

    Fact: Illegal immigration is, well….illegal. So if we want to enforce anti-immigration laws, fine. But lets do it with full understanding of all the other facts: 1. We, the US people are the ones having a demand for illegal immigration cheap labor and we do promote the migration of all these people from their home countries into this one. Why? because nobody in here wants to work at a slaughter house or picking fruits at 5 AM. 2. Taking illegal immigrants away is not going to magically solve the serious economic issues AL is facing; like all other states, AL was hit hard by the economic downturn caused by the stock market and the real estate bubbles burst but on top of that the issue with the sanitary system corruption and bankruptcy made things really bad. These are the facts that put AL in the situation where it is right now (and one wonders, how much of a role did illegal immigration have in these 3 big economic disasters?). 3. Illegal immigration is at this point, a scapegoat. Let’s face it. We want a better economic situation and we look around for culprits. Can we go after Wall Street? Not likely. Can we prosecute the corrupt people involved in the sanitary system fraud? we already did that. Who is to blame for this situation where we are standing? To say ourselves sounds pretty unfair. Easier to point at illegal immigration and blame it on them and the crime they bring along, like prostitution and drugs, right? (after all we US citizens do not consume illegal drugs and would never pay for sex) 4. Regardless of the benefits or disadvantages to our local economy of illegal immigration, this topic is certainly moving politics up the ladder and last but not least, number 5, the one fact that it is so hard to admit: Illegal immigrants are people too and they buy food, clothes, entertainment, properties and services. Oh and did I mention they pay taxes too? believe it or not they do, sales tax always and in most cases time income tax too (trust me, employers retain income tax!). But they are different. They have a different culture and look different. Ahh…maybe I’m getting to the bottom line but that is a topic for another website. I’m not here to say if illegal immigration is good or bad for our local economy, nor that we should accept to live with neighbors who looks different and have different customs. I just wanted to state the facts – striping aside the politics and media selling headers. Just wanted to give you some food for thought. Have a nice day.

  • lopez

    REP. DAN WILLIAMS: You know, we’re all trying to get along. We’re all trying to raise our children, our grand children and everything. It’s just, you got that “illegal” word there that makes a difference

    so do i have to be white and legal to TRY to raise my family pretty sure if he was in mexico with his family he would want to come to the united states to get a better future for his family… they really dont know who else to blame this on anymore..Most of the illegal aliens are trying to raise their familys here because they cant do that back in mexico ….
    its just wrong what Alabama is doing… they should be ashamed of them selves

  • Gustavo Mudger

    Should be a very interesting debate, thanks for pointing it up.

  • Ela Frees

    Sofia: It is the 21st century. Wake up and smell the coffee.