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Alabama Immigration Law: Activists Decry 'Racist, Police-State' Measures

Various activist groups have been speaking out against Alabama's tough new immigration laws, made effective Thursday, and have vowed to continue fighting, taking the battle to the courts.

The coalition of groups spans the racial spectrum and includes the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), the Mexican American Legal Defense Education Fund (MALDEF), the Asian Law Caucus (ALC), the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the ACLU, and more. Together, the group has filed an emergency request to block key provisions of Alabama's new immigration laws that they argue are extreme and violate basic civil rights.

Linton Joaquin, general counsel of NILC, said the law makes Alabama a racist police state, but that his group and others will continue to fight.

"The Alabama court has permitted provisions of the law to take effect that require local police, and even school teachers, to become de facto immigration agents," Joaquin said in a statement.

"Allowing these portions of the law to take effect will cause irreparable harm to communities of color in Alabama, and we will take every legal action necessary to ensure that these provisions ultimately will be stripped from Alabama’s law books," he added.

Foster Maer of LatinoJustice PRLDEF says the law will have damaging effects on the daily lives of American Latinos and immigrants of all backgrounds. "Given the breadth of this decision, it promises to open a new and ugly chapter on race relations in the United States," Maer said.

"Here we have a court saying that it's okay for a state to discriminate against Latinos and other immigrants in such key areas as the right to get an education, to be free from unreasonable searches, to enforce contracts, to access the government. Latinos across the country understand what this decision means and are going to be horrified by it."

If the coalition group's emergency request is granted, some of the most controversial provisions of the law would be blocked, including forcing children’s parents to provide their immigration status; mandating that immigrants carry "papers" at all times; prohibiting immigrants from entering into business transactions in the state, such as receiving public utilities like water and sewage services; and the ability to enter into contracts, including child support and rental agreements, among others.

It is unclear whether or not Alabama officials will approve the emergency request. However, even though the law has been in effect for merely a day, The Christian Science Monitor reports that people are already beginning to feel the repercussions – and not just immigrants.

The state's agriculture commissioner has considered squash rotting in the fields because migrant workers, many of whom are Latino, have either left or avoided the state.

The construction sector has also being hit hard as the state attempts to rebuild after several violent tornadoes rampaged the state earlier this year.

"The question is, now that the law has passed and is in effect, who will fill these labor-intensive jobs?" says Jay Reed, president of the Associated Builders and Contractors trade group of Alabama. "To date, we haven't had anyone waiting in line."

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