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part 3 Engaging Politics This page intentionally left blank 87 Southern Inhospitality Latino Immigrant Attrition and Resistance in the South gwendolyn ferreti On February 6, 2011, speaking to a Republican audience at a party breakfast, Alabama state senator Scott Beason said: “If you don’t believe illegal immi‑ gration will destroy a community go and check out parts of Alabama around Arab and Albertville. . . . [Republicans need to] empty the clip, and do what has to be done.”1 Later in that legislative session, Senator Beason cosponsored a bill that was pushed into law: the “Beason-­Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act,” hereafter referred to in this essay as hb56. hb56 is a comprehensive, state-­ level immigration law that aimed for undocumented immigrants residing within the state to “self-­ deport” by in‑ creasing the number of circumstances where migrants’ immigration status would be reviewed, denying them access to services, and criminalizing their actions so that they would be exposed to deportation. The “attrition via en‑ forcement” approach to immigration control represents an effort by states to control the growth of undocumented immigration, particularly that of Latino migrants, by ratcheting up the enforcement of policies that exclude immigrants and policing them (and everyone else) on increasing fronts. It is best known for the fact that it created a requirement for law enforcement officers to inquire about a person’s immigration status anytime a person is stopped, detained, or arrested, if the officer has “reasonable suspicion” that the individual may be an undocumented migrant, and mandated detention upon the lack of proof thereof. (This requirement is commonly known as the “papers, please” provision and was copied from Arizona’s own state immigra‑ tion law, sb1070.) The law also became infamous for including a provision that required k–­ 12 public school officials to determine the immigration sta‑ tus of newly enrolled students and prohibited undocumented people from enrolling in public colleges and universities. The law aimed to criminalize mundane aspects of immigrants’ everyday lives, such as driving, fishing, go‑ ing to school, owning and living in a manufactured or mobile home, voting, not carrying state-­ issued identification or their legal permanent residency 88 ferreti cards, entering into contracts, looking for work on the streets, and engaging in government trans­ actions (including applying for a vehicle registration or trying to obtain public utilities, such as water). The legislators who supported hb56 aimed for un­documented immigrants’ “attrition via enforcement” in the state, a goal popularly known as “self-­ deportation.” Immigration restriction‑ ists have promoted this as an alternative to mass detention and deportation, on the one hand, and to the legalization of the millions of undocumented im‑ migrants living in the United States today, on the other. Restrictionists argue that undocumented immigrants can be pushed into leaving a state (and the country), in essence deporting themselves, if they face joblessness, increased­ criminalization, and stringent enforcement of already-­ existing immigration control measures such as the use of E‑Verify and the Secure Communities program, discussed below. The policy of attrition via enforcement is viewed as an effective addition to the active hunt for undocumented immigrants, raids by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ice) or other law en‑ forcement officials, and the stemming of unauthorized crossings at the bor‑ der. The policy ignores ­ undocumented immigrants’ U.S. roots and communi‑ ties and does not account for their strong motivations not to leave. The policy also shifts responsibility for immigration enforcement from institutions to individuals such as school staff and others untrained and unaccountable for misuse and abuse of these new powers. hb56 targeted first- and second-­ generation immigrants by establishing a coding system that required k–­12 public schools to record both a student’s im‑ migration status and the status of the student’s parents. It also prohibited un‑ documented people from enrolling at state colleges and universities. The law also affected other Alabama residents who were not undocumented per‑ sons, making it a crime to harbor or transport anyone who was known to be undocumented or who it was reasonable to believe was undocumented, re­ quiring all employers to verify new employees’ immigration status by using the ­ E‑Verify federal database, making the solicitation of work on the streets (as done by day laborers) illegal, and establishing a photo identification re‑ quirement to vote. hb56 created an environment in which Latinos came un‑ der intense scrutiny and faced an increase in xenophobic and racist intimida‑ tion. In one instance in Tuscaloosa, a white...


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