Calls to SPLC Hotline Show Alabama Anti-Immigrant Law Creating Humanitarian Crisis

Since the Southern Poverty Law Center established a hotline last week to report issues with Alabama’s new anti-immigrant law, we have received more than 1,000 calls, illustrating clearly that the law is on the verge of creating a humanitarian crisis for immigrants in the state – regardless of their immigration status.

The dread in the callers’ voices is palpable as they contemplate uprooting their families or keeping their children home from school, or as they simply worry that the law will leave them homeless. The SPLC and our allies submitted evidence this weekend to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama that demonstrates the damage this law has inflicted in a matter of days. It is our hope the federal court will block the law until it issues a final ruling on the law’s constitutionality.

Download the factsheet (PDF). (En español)

Rights that are still protected:
• Undocumented and lawfully present students (including refugees and asylees) can continue attending any of Alabama’s public colleges.
• You can continue to live with or drive someone who is an undocumented immigrant.
• Employers can continue to make state tax deductions for all employees — including unauthorized immigrant workers.
• Employers cannot be sued for discrimination by work-authorized employees when they are not hired or fired when the employer has other employees who are undocumented.
• It is not a crime under Alabama law for someone to ask anyone to work as a day laborer.

These parts of the law are in effect:
• Public elementary and secondary schools can verify the immigration status of enrolling students and potentially their parents. This should NOT apply to students who have already enrolled in an Alabama public school.
• It is a crime for an immigrant who is in the country unlawfully to not carry proof of his or her immigration status. This means everyone will be required to carry their “papers” at all times.
• Law enforcement officers can check the immigration status of any person they stop, detain, or arrest who they reasonably suspect is in the country unlawfully.
• People must prove their immigration status when they apply for a license plate, apply for or renew a driver’s license, or apply for a business license. It is a felony for an unauthorized immigrant to enter into a “business transaction” with the State of Alabama.
• All contracts between an unauthorized immigrant and another person are invalid. These could include child support, rental, loans, and other agreements.
• Law enforcement will transport those arrested for driving without a license to the nearest magistrate and will check their immigration status.
• Law enforcement will check the immigration status of people who are jailed.
• Unlawfully present immigrants convicted of crimes will be transferred to immigration custody.

It is already clear this law is wreaking havoc in people’s lives:

  • Our filing describes how in at least one Montgomery public school, teachers questioned currently enrolled Latino students about their immigration status and the immigration status of their parents. This happened despite assurances from the state that currently enrolled students would not be questioned. News reports have clearly shown that school children – regardless of immigration status – are being kept out of school.
  • We have heard from people asking if their landlord can kick them out of their apartment because the law invalidates leases with undocumented immigrants. Countless families could be pushed out of their homes and into the streets as we wait for this law to be declared unconstitutional.
  • We’re also hearing of utility authorities requiring proof of immigration status for customers to maintain water service. In other words, some families may have to go without clean water and the convenience of indoor plumbing while they wait on the courts to determine what we’ve known all along – this law is unconstitutional and should have never been enforced.

These stories, and many others like them, show why we're working to have the law blocked until the court issues a final ruling. Too many lives are being thrown into disarray. The SPLC pledges to continue fighting this law. We also will continue to educate people of their rights under this law and maintain a hotline for people to report issues pertaining to it. The hotline can be reached at 1-800-982-1620.

If you are a lawyer and would like to volunteer your services, please contact us.