12/16/2011

SPLC Urges DHS to End Raids Terrorizing Latino Communities in North Alabama

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) urged the Department of Homeland Security today to end raids by federal immigration agents that have terrorized north Alabama families and that undermine federal efforts to protect the civil rights of the state’s Latino community in the wake of the state’s harsh new anti-immigrant law. 

The letter was sent to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano after the SPLC learned of raids at apartment complexes and mobile home parks in Fort Payne and Collinsville in recent days. Armed Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents entered homes without permission and even interrogated young children about their parents’ whereabouts.

The letter asks Napolitano to stop the raids and conduct an investigation into civil rights violations that may have taken place. It also notes that the raids undermined efforts by several federal agencies to protect the Latino community from civil rights violations resulting from the state’s anti-immigrant law, HB 56. The letter highlights Napolitano’s recent statement that the Department of Homeland Security will not assist the state in enforcing HB 56.

“Alabama’s Latino community has already been devastated by HB 56, and many Latinos who have not left the state are living in terror,” said SPLC Legal Director Mary Bauer. “These raids profoundly undermine the federal government’s substantial efforts to reassure people that they still have civil rights and that the federal government is committed to protecting them. They are terrorizing a community already living in fear and chaos.”

The SPLC learned that during the raids agents engaged in disturbing and illegal conduct, including threatening to arrest children who are U.S. citizens if they did not reveal their parents’ whereabouts. Though it appears that the agents were looking for specific individuals, they arrested many others who happened to be in the vicinity.

The raids came after several federal agencies, including the departments of Education and Labor, took steps to reassure the state’s Latino community that the government will be vigilant in protecting their civil rights. The Department of Justice is challenging the law in federal court, as is the SPLC and a coalition of civil rights groups. 

“These raids are a stark reminder that the failure of our nation to pass comprehensive immigration reform has devastating repercussions that rip apart communities and push immigrants deeper into the shadows,” said Dan Werner, the SPLC’s deputy legal director.