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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Latino Families Flee Alabama After Immigration Ruling

Jeremy Gonzalez picks tomatoes on a farm in Steele, Ala., Monday, Oct. 3, 2011. Much of the crop is rotting as many of the migrant workers who normally work these fields have moved to other states to find work after Alabama's immigration law took affect last week. Many farmers stand to lose much of their crops because they have no help to harvest it. (AP)

Jeremy Gonzalez picks tomatoes on a farm in Steele, Ala. Much of the crop is rotting as many of the migrant workers who normally work these fields have moved to other states to find work after Alabama's immigration law took effect last week. (AP)

There’s been an exodus of Latino immigrants from Alabama, after last week’s ruling by a federal judge upheld most of the state’s new immigration enforcement law. The fear of deportation among undocumented immigrants is making its way into the schools, which under the law now must request proof of citizenship from new students who enroll.

Bill Lawrence, principal of Foley Elementary School in Foley, Alabama told Here & Now‘s Robin Young that after hearing about the new rules, many children arrived at school afraid.

“The students came in tears, running to their teachers and crying in fear. They’re afraid that their moms and dads would not be home when they got home. Many of them were almost in hysterics,” he said.

Lawrence said as many as 45 children did not attend school that day, and dozens of parents are withdrawing their kids and fleeing.

Most of his students are U.S. citizens, but many have parents who apparently are not.

The law requires Alabama school districts to forward to the state Department of Education the names of students who fail to prove citizenship.

A spokesperson for the department, Malissa Valdes, said if students can’t provide documentation, they are “in no way prosecuted for that.” The state will forward the numbers of undocumented students, not the names, to the Legislature.

“We want them to be there, we want them to be educated,” Valdes said. Federal law requires public schools to educate undocumented children.

Guest:

  • Bill Lawrence, principal of Foley Elementary School in Foley, Alabama

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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