As many have noticed, my home of Alabama is in the news again this week about our immigration law. It is by far the toughest in the nation, and much of it has, for now, been upheld by the courts. Many expect the appeals court to overturn parts of the law, but for the moment it is in force and the damage has already been done.
I realize that part of the anger that led to this legislation came from mankind’s tendency to isolate and stereotype individuals. After some experiences in my own life, and from talking to people in the immigrant community, I am now realizing the issue is much more complicated than just kicking out the illegals.
Last summer I was selling a used van, and a man of Hispanic origins called and wanted to look at the van. His English was a bit broken, but it was good enough we could negotiate a price and carry on a basic conversation. After negotiating a price, he disappeared for a couple of days. My brother, who travels to Mexico frequently, told me he would be back. He did call me back two days later. I still hadn’t sold the van, so I went to meet him at the local park and sell lot. From our conversation, I realized he had a large family network and had gotten money from his brother, his sister-in law, his sister, and a host of other family and friends. He handed me a stack of cash, and I signed the title and bill of sale.
This week, when the new law went into effect, I was talking to a Hispanic friend of mine, and she explained that the main problem with the new law was that in the Hispanic community we are not dealing with illegal immigrant individuals, but interconnected networks of families. Due to our nations’s inconsistent immigration laws over the past century, family legal status gets very complicated. Parts of the family may have legal documentation; however, other members do not. So, when the focus is on individuals, family networks get disrupted and perhaps even destroyed.
This new law has impacted families and business’s all over my area. Even though an individual working at a business had legal documentation, parts of his extended family may not. Therefore, many legal immigrants fled the state, fearful they would be forcefully separated from their families. The exodus of immigrants from our state are not necessarily the illegal immigrants. Instead, they are often honest, hard working people who are trying to protect their family structure. This exodus of legal immigrants and their family networks have resulted in restaurants without workers, schools losing students, factories without workers, and crops rotting in the fields.
For a part of the county that preaches great families, it is sad we are working so hard to destroy the one segment of our population that is still focused on families.