Alabama’s immigration law, which is as punitive as Arizona’s SB1070 and which has been partially validated by a conservative federal judge, has already generated some harrowing implications for residents of the state. The latest consequence comes from a public water company in the city of Allgood:
The poster is mildly worded, but carries a very big punch. “Attention to all water customers,” it begins. “To be compliant with new laws concerning immigration you must have an Alabama driver’s license …”
And then comes the hit: “… or you may lose water service.”
The warning, posted in the offices of a public water company in the small town of Allgood in Alabama, is the most graphic illustration yet of the draconian new immigration law coming into effect in the state. Under section 30 of the new law, HB56, anyone who lacks proper immigration papers is deemed to be committing a crime if they try to enter into a “business transaction” with the “state or a political subdivision of the state”.
The law does not spell out what constitutes a “business transaction” or what particular state bodies are implicated, but judging from the poster put up by the Allgood Alabama Water Works company it is being interpreted widely enough to include the basic essentials of life.
You can see the poster at right. The Alabama law also forces public schools to check ID of their students (and their parents), which has led to a mass exodus from the schools. Hispanic families are leaving Alabama, and state farms are seeing their crops rot in the fields, which is exactly what happened in Arizona, whose economy has lagged the national average after its brush with immigrant-bashing. The state is considering using prison labor to pick the crops. Threatening to shut off water service from immigrants is only the latest in a cascade of effects, but it’s perhaps the most cruel.
Alabama’s conservative political class finds this to be a positive development, regardless of the economic and human rights implications for the state. But the Justice Department has appealed the ruling from the end of last month by a district court judge to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The law would allow authorities to question those suspected of being illegal immigrants and hold them in jail without bond. It also allows school officials to check the immigration status of students.
The Department of Justice said in a release that these provisions “conflict with federal immigration law and undermine the federal government’s careful balance of immigration enforcement priorities and objectives.”
“Alabama’s law is designed to affect virtually every aspect of an unauthorized immigrant’s daily life, from employment to housing to transportation to entering into and enforcing contracts to going to school,” the statement said.
The 11th Circuit is a conservative court; they ruled the individual mandate unconstitutional recently, and Republican appointees outnumber Democratic ones on the court by 9-3. So it’s likely we’ll see the ruling upheld and an appeal to the Supreme Court, which is already determining whether to hear an appeal on Arizona’s immigration law, which DoJ was able to block in federal court. Since Arizona and Alabama’s laws cover similar issues, whatever gets to SCOTUS first will probably set the precedent.
But in the meantime, undocumented workers will continue to be terrorized by state government in Alabama.