Court Ruling Limits Reach of One of Nation’s Toughest Immigration Policies
The harsh Alabama law (HB 56) which limited undocumented immigrants rights to virtually all public services, from water service to accessing housing and education, was curtailed through an appeals court ruling this week. The Court ruled that the law violated equal protection, for example, by requiring schools to keep records of undocumented students. The Court stated that “Alabama has crafted a calculated policy of expulsion, seeking to make the lives of unlawfully present aliens so difficult as to force them to retreat from the state,” recognizing the widespread impacts of the law on the daily life and health of immigrant communities. However, the Court did not fully invalidate the law. For instance, it will remain legal for police to ask certain individuals about their immigration status.
Policy Providing Young Immigrants Stay of Deportation and Work Permit Goes Into Effect
On Wednesday last week, Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, announced in June, went into effect, allowing undocumented immigrant youth to apply for two-year work permits and defer deportation. Thousands of young people around the country showed up on Wednesday to file their paperwork. The cost for filing the paperwork is $465, and once offered a deferral, many immigrant youth will still find the costs of college prohibitive. In Chicago, the city is raising educational scholarship funds for those students who receive deferrals, and additional funds have been set up to assist low-income youth in paying the filing fee. Information on contributing to the fund can be found here.
However, the program has its detractors. In Arizona, Governor Jan Brewer issued an executive order that undermines the intent and implementation of Obama’s program. The executive order prohibits young people from getting drivers licenses or receiving public benefits, even if they have been given work permits and deferred deportation through the Federal program. Nebraska’s governor followed suit, saying his state would also continue to deny youth drivers licenses and public benefits despite their deferred status.
Racism Impacts Attitudes About Immigration
A study by researchers at the University of Cincinnati highlights the links between racism and opinions about immigration and immigration policy. The study assessed how perceptions about the characteristics of immigrants from four different regions of the world shaped opinions about the societal impacts of immigration. Researchers found that individual’s perceptions of immigrants from Latin America were strongly associated with their opinions that immigration negatively impacts employment, education, and crime. In the words of the researchers, “as our findings show, reaction to immigration is often filtered through attitudes toward the particular characteristics they believe immigrant groups hold.”
U.S. Isn’t Only Country Introducing Harsher Approaches to Immigration Policy
In Australia, parliament voted to re-open offshore detention centers, in an effort to stop unauthorized immigration from Indonesia. These detention centers were closed in 2007 due to concerns about human rights violations of detaining people in third-country camps for extended periods of time. It is estimated that close to 1000 people have died since 2001 while making the dangerous sea crossing from Java to Australia in crowded and unsafe boats. In Greece, over 4000 police officers conducted a large sweep through Athens to find undocumented immigrants – resulting in the detention of 6000 people, and the deportation of over 100. The raids and deportations are expected to continue. In addition, the country is attempting to seal the land border with Turkey, adding 2000 security officers and introducing aggressive new tactics such as 24-hour patrols in an attempt to slow the crossing of undocumented immigrants into the country. The Minister responsible for these actions, stated that Greece was suffering an “unprecedented invasion” and that the “social fabric [of Greece] is at risk of unraveling.” It is clear that anti-immigrant sentiment and harmful policies aren’t only an issue here in the U.S.