The Facts and Figures Behind Alabama’s Immigration Law
Alabama’s ethnic media, immigrant rights groups and women leaders came together at a New America Media forum last week to strategize about how to work together to document the effects of the new immigration law on all of their communities.
The creation of an Alabama News Network – an editorial exchange to share content and some of the facts and figures behind the new immigration law – was one of the main ideas that came out of the meeting.
1. Census: Alabama Latino Population Up 145% in 10 Years
By Catalina Jaramillo, El Diario/La Prensa
Translated by Elena Shore, New America Media
Editor’s Note: Alabama saw a 145-percent increase in its Latino population between 2000 and 2010, the second-highest Latino growth rate in the nation, after South Carolina. The two states that saw the biggest increase in Latinos have enacted two of the strictest immigration laws in the country.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The song ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ has a special resonance for the thousands of Hispanics who have made this state their home in the past 10 years. Although they only account for 3.9% of the total population according to the 2010 Census, the number of Latinos living in Alabama increased 145% in the last decade, from 75,830 in 2000 to 185,602 in 2010.
“We were a little surprised to know that Alabama was the second fastest growing state in the country. However, we believe that the census figure was a little low. We believe (the actual number of Latinos in Alabama) is close to 200,000,” said Isabel Rubio, founder and director of Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama (HICA).
The purchasing power of Latinos in Alabama in 2009 was $3 billion, an increase of 1025% according to the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia.
The largest population increase occurred in the counties of Tallapoosa, with a 331% increase, and Shelby, which grew 297% since 2000. But the county with the most Latinos is still Jefferson, with 25,488 Hispanic residents, followed by Madison in the north with 15,404.
In Alabama, the majority of Latinos work in construction, gardens and services, and in chicken factories in the north. More than 50% of Latinos in Alabama are Mexican.
In 2010, undocumented immigrants in Alabama paid $25,769,851 in personal taxes, $5,825,919 in property taxes and $98,709,564 in sales tax, according to the Immigration Policy Center.
TOTAL STATE POPULATION: 4,779,736
STATE’S HISPANIC POPULATION: 185,602
PERCENTAGE OF HISPANIC WOMEN AND MEN: 46.6% – 53.4%
AVERAGE AGE OF HISPANIC POPULATION: 23.7
US BORN HISPANICS: 79,583
FOREIGN BORN HISPANICS: 68,696
NATURALIZED FOREIGN BORN HISPANICS: 8.266
SPEAK A LANGUAGE OTHER THAN ENGLISH AT HOME: 73.6%
SPEAK ONLY ENGLISH AT HOME: 26.4%
AVERAGE HOUSEHOLD INCOME: $33,825
PERCENTAGE OF HISPANICS WITHOUT HEALTH INSURANCE: 39.4%
PERCENTAGE OF HISPANIC FAMILIES LIVING IN POVERTY: 29.4%
2. A Look at the Effects of HB 56
— Fearful Hispanic students skip class: Some 2,285 Hispanic students (out of 34,000 Hispanic students) in Alabama skipped class on Oct. 3, after the bill was passed; “about double the usual absentee rate” according to the Alabama Department of Education.
— Hispanics flee an Alabama town: By Oct. 3, 123 students had withdrawn from the schools in Albertville, Ala. Scores more were absent. Statewide, 1,988 Hispanic students were absent on Oct. 7, about 5 percent of the entire Hispanic population of the school system, the New York Times reported.
— Ala. loses workers as immigration law takes effect: Bill Caton, president of Associated General Contractors of Alabama, estimated that as much as one-fourth of the commercial building work force had left since the law was upheld, reports the Associated Press. Commercial construction is a more than $7 billion-a-year industry in Alabama.
— Standing in the Schoolhouse Door: “All Americans should feel ashamed,” according to a Nov. 5 editorial in the New York Times, in response to Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange’s reluctance to turn over data on school absenses. The Justice Department asked 39 school superintendents for data on student absences and withdrawals since the school year began. Luther Strange wrote a letter questioning their legal authority to do so. Thomas Perez, head of the Civil Rights Division, responded by citing Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Equal Educational Opportunities Act.
Alabama’s law does not deny undocumented children the right to attend school, but it does require school officials investigate their immigration status. That section of the law is not being enforced because a federal judge has delayed it temporarily, but immigration advocates say it already has frightened families enough to avoid school activities and caused Hispanic children to be bullied.
The Obama administration filed a challenge of Alabama’s immigration law in October, asking an appeals court to block the enforcement of the law.
The 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta consequently ruled to temporarily block parts of the law, including the requirements that schools check students’ papers and the mandate the immigrants carry documents of identification proving legal residency at all times.
Since U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn’s initial ruling upholding parts of the immigration law in September, the Alabama Education Department reported that thousands of Hispanic students had stopped showing up in school, reports Politico.
— Labor Worries Rise as Planting Season Nears in Alabama: Alabama farmers now face a labor crisis because both legal and undocumented migrant workers have fled the state since the HB 56 went into effect. In Baldwin County on the Gulf Coast, strawberry planting season is only a few weeks away. Farmers are wondering if they’ll have enough farm workers. Alabama Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan said farmers are concerned about where the labor is going to come from since legal immigrants are leaving along with the undocumented ones. By the time the harvesting season starts in late spring and early summer, McMillan says farmers will need thousands of workers, and he’s not sure the unemployed can fill the demand.
“A lot of the unemployed people, certainly the heaviest concentration of unemployed people, are in our cities. And in most cases, you’re talking at least an hour of travel one way to get to the farming operations,” McMillan said.
Efforts to bus job seekers from Birmingham to farms have only had about a 10 percent success rate.
A $5.5 billion agriculture industry is now at stake.
— Ala. Governor: Immigration Law Should Be Simpler: Gov. Robert Bentley said Nov. 7 he wants the Legislature to simplify the state’s new immigration law, reports the Associated Press.
3. TAKE ACTION: Alabama Media Respond
— Alabama Editorial Round-up: Recent editorials from Alabama newspapers.
— Alabama Radio Host Embarks on 14-Day, 14-City Walk for Dialogue on HB 56: Alabama Spanish-language radio station La Jefa Radio has launched “14 Cities, 14 Days, One Family, One Alabama,” an unprecedented effort to get Alabamans of all backgrounds and from all walks of life talking to one another about Alabama’s new immigration law.