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28
Nov

so much for your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free

I have written about the hedonistic immigration laws in Alabama in the recent past.  What prompted me to write about this again was the Op-Ed I read today in the New York Times titled The Price of Intolerance that examines the economic and social toll the immigration law has taken on the state.

Even though Alabama’s Immigration Law is fairly new – less than 6 months old – and is modeled after Arizona’s aggressive law, its problems are becoming increasing painful for Alabamians.  Whether or not Alabama will revoke the laws because of the economic issues, is another thing altogether.

Regardless, this law is doing damage to nearly all sectors of Alabama’s economic and social stratosphere.

Few words are more famous or more evocative than these from Emma Lazarus's "The New Colussus": "Give me your tired, your poor,/ Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." Inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty, they have come to represent America's promise. Institution: American Jewish Historical Societquite a while to come.

Let’s hope the fallout in Alabama will be a critical warning sign to other states, like Florida and California, hoping to pass a similar law.  Florida, where I live, is one of the few states considering a similar law to Arizona and Alabama’s.   Florida is also building its own Immigration prison slash detention center.  They don’t like to call it a prison, though we all know that is precisely what it is.  It’s a prison for immigrants who are CAUGHT without papers.  SLAM goes the door to the cell that will hold mothers and fathers of children who did nothing to deserve having their life destroyed  other than being born in the USA.

Apparently illegal immigrants are being held in Florida’s criminal jails.  Maybe I’ve been under a rock, but I didn’t think this was happening.   I know that immigration facilities existed, but I was under that impression that people held there were also criminals.  WRONG, Ms. Ostrich.

In a recent article by Laura Wides-Munoz of the Associated Press, the plans are laid out:

The proposed facility is part of the federal government’s new plan to move immigrants from jails to detention centers it says are better for holding people with no criminal background. The centers are also supposed to be easier to reach for detainees’ relatives and lawyers  (Arizona Republic, Nov. 19, 2011).

I find it difficult to wrap my head around this.  It makes me sick to my stomach to think that the Immigration Detention center will jail people without any criminal record.  They will be criminals just as soon as they’re caught without paperwork.   I have also learned this Florida Detention center will be privately run – i.e. not run by the government. That is scary in itself.

As far as the impact to Alabamians, the damage is just now coming to light, according to the New York Times.   For instance, workers who’d normally work on farms are largely, if not all, immigrants. Americans don’t want these jobs.

In Alabama, workers are fleeing for fear of being jailed.  This means the farmer’s crops are dying on the vine, work is not getting done in other businesses supported by an immigrant population.

The New York Times Op Ed asks, how will Alabama deal with the extra police needed to handle the immigration dragnets?  Alabama is not exactly a wealthy state -far from it.

Who will step into the jobs held by the immigrant populations?

Undocumented immigrants make up about 4.2 percent of Alabama’s work force, or 95,000 people in a state of 4.8 million. For all the talk about clearing the way for unemployed Americans, there is no evidence that Alabamians in any significant numbers are rushing to fill the gap left by missing farm laborers and other low-wage immigrant workers (New York Times, The Price of Intolerance ).

Recently in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, a manager from the Mercedes-Benz company was visiting the local work site.  The manager was found driving without a driver’s license or any legal identification documents and he was taken to jail since he was potentially an illegal immigrant.

Now, that’s a cautionary tale.   We are America, the land of the free?

“Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” wrote Emma Lazarus in her sonnet, The New Colossus, written at the base of the Statue of Liberty.

Not so much.  Not anymore.

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