Despite the devastating consequences of state immigration laws in Alabama and Arizona, legislators in other states have introduced similar enforcement bills this year. Legislators in Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee and Virginia introduced an array of costly immigration enforcement bills in their 2012 legislative sessions—some which are modeled on Arizona’s SB 1070. While study after study continues to document how these extreme state laws are costing state economies, disrupting entire industries and driving communities further underground, state legislators clearly aren’t getting the message.
Last month, legislators in Mississippi introduced a slew of anti-immigrant bills. State Senator Joey Fillingane, for example, introduced SB 2090, a bill which requires police to check the immigration status of anyone they reasonably suspect is undocumented, makes it a crime to fail to carry proper immigration documents and a crime to harbor or transport an undocumented immigrant, and a misdemeanor for an undocumented immigrant to apply for or solicit work. Both the Mississippi House and Senate passed different versions of this bill, but are expected to hammer out one bill to send to Governor Haley Barbour’s desk for a signature soon.
In Missouri, state Senator Will Kraus recently introduced SB 590, a bill which requires police to determine the immigration status of individuals they reasonably suspect are unauthorized and makes it a crime not to carry immigration documents. Missouri’s bill, like Alabama, however takes the law a step further by requiring schools to verify the immigration status of enrolling students and their parents. Remember that the U.S. Department of Justice blocked a similar provision in Alabama’s immigration law, HB 56, last October. Missouri’s legislature passed the bill out of committee last week—a bill likely to cost Missouri millions.
Jennifer was born in Chattanooga, but was yanked out of the only life she knew when her mother took her to Guatemala last year. Work in Chattanooga was scarce because of the recession, her mother Inocenta Garcia said, even more so because she was in the country illegally.
Jennifer is one of untold numbers of children in the crosshairs of a vitriolic immigration debate: children born and raised in America — and thereby U.S. citizens by law — but forced to move to other countries when their parents are deported or pressured to leave.
Opponents of illegal immigration say that’s fair; the parents knew the risks when they crossed the border without permission in the first place. In their view, Jennifer is exactly where she belongs.
The discourse is so heated and the issue so divisive that some Americans patrol the border with Mexico on their own time, with their own weapons.
And states like Georgia, Alabama and Arizona have passed some of the toughest laws in the country to deter illegal immigration.
In front of The Clairmont Apartments, representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition denounced a raid by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents in October that resulted in the detention of more than 20 undocumented immigrants.
Apparently, immigrant representatives and witnesses say agents broke into the apartments and arrested men and women at gunpoint, forcing them to leave their children behind.
Moreover, immigrant representatives know of no criminal charges filed against the people who agents rounded up. Additionally, they claim that warrants were not presented before agents entered the apartments by force. One source says they were taken to a detention facility in Ft. Payne, Ala., despite the fact that Davidson County has a facility that participates in 287 (g), a federal program that allows local law enforcement to screen and detain undocumented immigrants.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time Hispanics have had trouble at the Clairmont Apartments. In 1999, a Scene investigation discovered a private security company was beating, harassing and often extorting Hispanic residents of the Clairmont, then known as Ivy Wood.