As State Immigration Laws Pass, Immigrant-Serving Nonprofits Scramble

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July 14, 2011; Source: ReutersAlabama’s new immigration law does not take effect until September 1, but farms and businesses that rely heavily on immigrant labor and community-based organizations that have newcomers’ welfare in mind are reporting that immigrants are fast vacating the state. Once the statute takes effect, it will be a crime to employ, transport, harbor or rent property to undocumented immigrants in Alabama. Public school teachers will also be required to determine the immigration status of children under their care.

The Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama (HICA) has been inundated by requests for legal assistance from both authorized and unauthorized immigrants, including parents who are considering returning to their native countries and leaving native-born children in the U.S. Caitlin Sandley, HICA’s lead organizer, told Reuters, “Regardless of immigrant status, they are concerned about the law.” The nonprofit has also seen a surge in donations in June.

Church leaders have expressed concern about the new law. Mike Shaw, president of the Alabama Baptist Convention, complained that the new ordinance makes it next to impossible for congregations to fulfill their mission. Parishioners and clergy work closely with immigrants, including those who are undocumented, often giving them rides to Sunday school, Bible study, and other programs.

As Alabama and other states pass their own immigration bills, immigrant communities will need help in dealing with the additional burden imposed by unreasonable and hard-line measures. Immigrant-serving community-based organizations will be there to aid in whatever way they can.—Erwin de Leon