Alabama’s Anti-Immigrant Law Successfully Intimidates Children From Going To School

On Wednesday, Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn issued an opinion that struck down parts of Alabama’s radical new anti-immigrant laws, but left in place a provision requiring public schools to “systematically determine the immigration status of public school students and to report the number of undocumented students in their district to the state.”

Many of the laws critics feared that the children of undocumented families would be afraid to go to school if it made it easier to deport their parents — and those fears have now been validated. The Alabama online news hub al.com reports today about one school in Foley, Alabama where dozens of students either stayed home or withdrew altogether, fearful that the new law was going to lead to the deportation of their families. The principal of the school said some undocumented parents are even making arrangements for documented parents to take custody of their children if they are deported:

Many of the 223 Hispanic students at Foley Elementary came to school Thursday crying and afraid, said Principal Bill Lawrence. Nineteen of them withdrew, and another 39 were absent, Lawrence said, the day after a federal judge upheld Alabama’s strict new immigration law, which authorizes law enforcement to detain people suspected of not being U.S. citizens and requires schools to ask new enrollees for a copy of their birth certificate. […] Lawrence said that parents are afraid that they’ll get arrested and detained, and be cut off from their children. “Many have made arrangements with American citizens in case they are separated from their children,” Lawrence said. “One of our mothers has agreed to accept seven families’ worth of children, just in case.”

“We don’t want them to take away our children,” said Dawn DuPree Kelley, the principal of Greenwood Elementary School in Jefferson County, Alabama. The state’s governor, Robert Bentley (R-AL), remains defiant, saying, “I will continue to fight at every turn to defend this law against any and all challenges.” Alabama’s interim state superintendent has emphasized that schools will not be refusing admission to students because their parent’s citizenship status and that students already enrolled won’t be checked.