Members of the Latino community in Alabama closed their businesses and stayed away from work and school Wednesday to make a point about their contribution to Alabama’s economy. A closer look reveals it is a significant contribution, regardless of legal status.
Alabama’s unduly restrictive new illegal immigration law has prompted a backlash from many in the state’s Latino community, who rightly contend they are an important part of the state’s economy.
Latino-owned businesses closed their doors Wednesday, and many Latino workers and students stayed home in a show of solidarity against what is considered the nation’s strictest immigration law.
A three-judge federal panel temporarily blocked enforcement of parts of the law Friday, but most of the objectionable portions of the law that give police sweeping powers to detain people suspected of being in Alabama illegally were left intact. The court will review the law in the coming months.
So, what of Latinos’ claims that their businesses and labor are an important part of the state’s economy?
A survey of information compiled by the Immigration Policy Center bears out their arguments. For example, unauthorized immigrants in Alabama paid $130.3 million in state and local taxes in 2010.
A breakdown of that number is:
• unauthorized immigrants paid $25.8 million in Alabama income taxes in 2010.
• unauthorized immigrants paid $5.8 million in Alabama property taxes.
• unauthorized immigrants paid $98.7 million in Alabama sales taxes.
Statistics compiled by the Pew Hispanic Center showed that unauthorized immigrants make up approximately 4.2 percent of the state’s workforce with 95,000 workers in 2010.
Most Latino business owners are legal residents, but many of them entered the country illegally years ago looking for work.
LAWRENCE — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said Thursday that bills targeting people living in the United States illegally may be more likely to pass this year because of the pressure conservative candidates are applying on moderate state senators.
That includes, he said, a possible repeal of in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants.
Kobach, one of the nation's most prominent advocates for tougher immigration laws, shared his opinion after a wide-ranging discussion of the impact of illegal immigration at the State of the State Kansas Economic Policy Conference on the campus of the University of Kansas.
Kobach defended the controversial laws he co-authored for Arizona and Alabama that, among other things, require law enforcement officers to check immigration status when they've stopped someone on suspicion of any other crime and are suspicious the person is here illegally.
Alabama's law allows police to detain people without bond who can't prove their residency, and it also requires schools to check residency status when kids register. Since key parts of the law were upheld by a federal judge in late September, illegal immigrants have been fleeing the state and schools have reported higher absentee rates.
Kobach acknowledged that such an exodus was an intended outcome of the law he helped write for Alabama. It may decrease population, but it has opened jobs for legal residents.
His views were fiercely challenged.
Benjamin E. Johnson, executive director of the nonprofit American Immigration Council in Washington, D.C., said those laws undercut increasingly successful community policy efforts, use up time that officers could spend on more important matters, and lead to discrimination.
Hundreds of Hispanic students were missing from classrooms in the Birmingham area on Wednesday, some Mexican restaurants were closed and workers did not show up at other businesses as Hispanics stayed home to protest the toughest immigration law in the country.
The boycott, designed to demonstrate the contribution that Hispanic immigrants make to Alabama, seemed to have mixed success across the Birmingham area. While some businesses were closed, other employers reported all of their workers came to work. The impact of the boycott appeared more profound in north Alabama, where several poultry plants were closed.
The Immigration Policy Center, an arm of the American Immigration Council in Washington, disagrees. It released a report last week that estimates immigrants comprised 4.9 percent of Alabama's work force in 2010. Citing data from the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy, the Immigration Policy Center estimates that in 2010, unauthorized immigrants in Alabama paid $130.3 million in state and local taxes.
That includes $25.8 million in state income taxes, $5.8 million in property taxes and $98.7 million in sales taxes.
It appears as if Pennsylvania is the next state to enter into the fray of reforming their state’s immigration laws. Last week, the State Government Committee approved the Professional Licensees Illegal Employment Act. If the bill becomes law, it would penalize anyone that hires undocumented workers by revoking their professional licenses from the Bureau of Occupational and Professional Affairs. This Bureau controls the professional licensing of over 30 licensing boards for various occupations including doctors, nurses, and funeral directors.
The Pennsylvania bill has wide support from Pennsylvania Republicans who believe that employers who hire illegal immigrants are not penalized at all. They believe that illegal immigrants are taking vital jobs in a time where the country is facing increasingly high unemployment rates. Opposition to the bill is widespread, with critics citing the bill’s continued failure to set out a clear policy of how it is going to be enforced.
Although Alabama has yet to fully enforce its draconian immigration laws, Alabama is already beginning to suffer because of its new legislation. After Judge Sharon Blackburn upheld HB 56, nearly 25% of the state’s construction workers have failed to show up to work. In a time where Alabama is supposed to be focusing on rebuilding infrastructure following the Tuscaloosa tornadoes of last year, the lack of construction workers in Alabama is troublesome. The Perryman Group stated that Alabama could lose an estimated 18,000 jobs and $2.6 billion in revenue because of the state’s immigration measures. Estimates from the American Immigration Council could also cost the states another $130 million in lost tax revenues.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry has been beaten up in recent GOP presidential primary debates over his signing of a bill in 2001 giving in-state tuition to illegal immigrant kids in Texas. Look for the issue to come up again at tonight’s debate in New Hampshire.
In a free society, so-called DREAM Act legislation would be unnecessary. Opportunities for legal immigration would be open wide enough that illegal immigration would decline dramatically. And higher education would be provided in a competitive market without state and federal subsidies. But that is not yet the world we live in.
On the federal level, the proposed Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act would offer permanent legal status to illegal immigrant children who graduate from high school and then complete at least two years of college or serve in the U.S. military. Legal status would allow them to qualify for in-state tuition in the states where they reside, and would eventually lead to citizenship.
Those who respond that such a law would amount to “amnesty” for illegal immigrants should keep a couple of points in mind.
First, kids eligible under the DREAM Act came to the United States when they were still minors, many of them at a very young age. They were only obeying their parents, something we should generally encourage young children to do.
Second, these kids are a low-risk, high-return bet for legalization. Because they came of age in the United States, they are almost all fluent in English and identify with America as their home (for many the only one they have ever known). “Assimilation” will not be an issue.
CHICAGO—According to the Immigration Policy Center, there are approximately 36,000 same sex, bi-national couples living in the United States. These couples have to reach out to alternative methods such as student visas or other legal resources in order to remain together.
Kevin Goodman is associate dean at St. James Cathedral, in Chicago. He met Anton Pulung-Hartanto, who is originally from Indonesia, at Disney world in 2000.
“I went to Disney with a youth group, to try to show them that one could have a religious experience in a place like that, and that’s where I met my partner”, said Goodman at a forum on LGBT Immigrant Rights held at the Adler School of Professional Psychology on September 27th.
Pulung-Hartanto worked at Disney, in Florida, as a cultural host with a Q-1 visa, which is provided specifically for cultural exchange programs.
They have been together for 12 years and plan on marrying next spring in Vermont, said Goodman.
The Final Option
Goodman is from New Orleans and grew up tied to the All Saints’ River Ridge Episcopal church. He studied communication and worked as a television producer. But he’s always been interested in Asian cultures, which is why he traveled to Xi’an in the Republic of China and has taken Asian Studies courses. He also studied in the theological seminary in New York, where his work with indigent youth and people with HIV began.
When he arrived in Chicago he worked with The Night Ministry program, specifically with indigent youth in the Lakeview neighborhood. He was also working with the St. Matthew church in Evanston through the Ravenswood Community Services agency and now with St. James Cathedral.
When Pulung-Hartanto’s Q-1 Visa expired, he applied for a Student I-20 visa which allowed him another 10 years in this country. He studied culinary arts at Saint Augustine College.
The impact of Alabama’s new immigration law, which requires K-12 schools to check the immigration status of their students, could be felt in several states, including Florida.
Sunshine State News reports today that “a number of school districts across Florida have been advised to monitor enrollment numbers for Hispanic migrant families relocating from Alabama after a federal judge upheld that state’s new immigration enforcement law.
The online news outlet adds that “Florida’s Education Estimating Conference said so far they haven’t seen any influx in the counties bordering Alabama or in counties such as Osceola, Hardee and Volusia where migrant families may seek agriculture employment,” and that the “Alabama Department of Education stated that on Oct 3, 5 percent of the state’s Hispanic students didn’t show up for school.”
Our sister site The American Independent recently reported that civil rights groups and the U.S. Justice Department sued to stop Alabama’s immigration enforcement law, “passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature in May, from being enforced, as they did in the case of S.B. 1070, the Arizona immigration law. But unlike in Arizona, a federal judge chose to allow most of the Alabama law to go into effect.”
The Immigration Policy Center reported last week that Alabama school administrators “worry that Alabama’s immigration law will impact the state’s already cash-strapped school system.”
The Policy Center added that, “according to Alabama’s Department of Education, 2,285 Hispanic students (of 34,000 Hispanic students state-wide) were absent from school on Monday.”
California Governor Jerry Brown announced Saturday that he has signed the second half of California's Dream Act legislative package, which will begin in 2013. But what is the Dream Act, and what impact will it have on the California?
Each year, about 25,000 undocumented students graduate from high school in California. Many of these students came to America when they were very young, before they had any say in their education or choices. As such, many legislators feel this bill gives them an opportunity both to become Americans and fulfill the American dream.
"After having invested 12 years in the high school education of these young men and women, who are here through no fault of their own," Assemblyman Gil Cedillo (D- Los Angeles) said Saturday, "it's the smartest thing for us to do to permit these students to get scholarships and be treated like every other student."
Many undocumented students are not able to attend college without financial assistance. Almost 40% of undocumented students families' live below the federal poverty line, compared to 17% percent for native-born families, according to the Immigration Policy Center.
Approximately 2,500 students are expected to apply under the program thus far.
The long and winding road that is the challenges to Alabama’s Taxpayer H.B. 56 has begun. Federal Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn has issued various rulings, but they are early, preliminary and procedural skirmishes, so there are no winners and losers yet.
But I have to ask Alabama decisionmakers, why bother? Many of the politicians involved are restrictionists and nativists who insist that they do not want government overreaching in their lives. And yet, they do not seem to mind, in fact insist upon, reaching into the lives of undocumented families, even at the state level.
Surely it is not large numbers behind this overreaction that is H.B. 56. Immigration Policy Center and Census Bureau figures reveal that in 2010, only 5 percent of Alabamians are Latino (3.9 percent) or Asian (1.1 percent), and in 2009, 87.8 percent of children in Asian families in the state were U.S. citizens, and 85.1 percent of Latino children in the state’s families were U.S. Citizens. With these small communities, why the rush to symbolize intolerance by enacting the country’s most restrictionist and comprehensively anti-immigrant statute?
Such laws are mean-spirited and punitive. The schoolchildren are already not showing up for classes. In enacting bans on college enrollments and counting measures on schoolchildren allowed by law to attend schools since Plyler v. Doe in 1982, Alabamians reveal themselves not as strict constructionists or conservatives, but as ideologues who will use unnecessary legislation and the power of government to intervene in families to punish innocent children. Public shame on them.
GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry’s statements on immigration in Florida last week and the reaction of immigration enforcement only policy supporters seems to be having an impact on the Florida Legislature.
According to The Miami Herald:
Florida’s Tea Party activists say they will accept nothing short of requiring every employer to check the immigration status of their workers through the federal E-verify program in January when legislators convene in regular session. But armed with the support of Florida’s powerful agriculture and business groups, the same legislative leaders who last year promised Arizona-style immigration reform are now barely offering tentative support for it.
The Herald adds: “House Speaker Dean Cannon, whose chamber proposed but never passed an Arizona-style immigration enforcement plan last year, said that immigration reform may take a back seat to balancing the budget, reapportionment and strengthening the economy.”
Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolis, R-Merritt Island, said last week that his chamber would pass the same immigration bill it passed in the 2011 session. At this year’s RedState Gathering, Gov. Rick Scott said that an immigration enforcement bill “will happen this session.”
According to Numbers USA — an organization that wants “lower immigration levels” — Perry’s results in the Florida straw poll can be blamed on his weak stance on immigration enforcement. The group writes that “Texas Gov. Rick Perry is proving that appearing to be more concerned about illegal-alien workers than about unemployed Americans doesn’t work in Republican primaries.”