Because state laws requiring local law enforcement to verify citizenship are now tied up in the courts, some state lawmakers may focus instead on making daily life difficult for illegal immigrants. Of particular interest is a provision in Alabama’s law that invalidates all contracts entered into with illegal immigrants. “That is one that has a much greater effect than some people might expect at first glance,” said Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who helped write the law. But Karen Tumlin of the National Immigration Law Center complained the provision “has led to nothing short of chaos” in Alabama, as it has been “applied to a striking range of activities, from getting tags on your cars to getting public utilities to changing title on your cars.”
Still, that seems to be the objective for Kobach and some others: Create enough fear and uncertainty, and illegal immigrants will leave a state on their own.
An article in today’s San Diego Union Tribune confirms that, supporters of such measures said they are intended to make life difficult for the undocumented, with the goal of spurring them to return to their native countries or at least leave this region. The report, titled “Life as an Undocumented Immigrant: how restrictive local immigration policies affect daily life,” was released by the Center for American Progress, a think tank in Washington, D.C., that produces in-depth analysis of various issues targeted at policy makers and media. This study is the second in the center’s “Documenting the Undocumented” series, which began with a look at how immigration-related laws in Alabama were affecting the undocumented population there.
“Restrictive policies are not pushing people out of these communities,” said Angela Garcia, co-author of the report and Ph.D. candidate at the University of California San Diego. “They are just more isolated, life is tenuous and there is a lot of everyday fear and anxiety.”
There are an estimated 11.5 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. Of those, two-thirds have been in the country more than a decade and most live in families with legal residents and children who are American citizens.
That means living deeper in the shadows hurts not just the undocumented person but the whole community, said Angela Kelley, vice president for immigration policy and advocacy at the Center for American Progress.
The new study found that undocumented immigrants tried to avoid authorities’ scrutiny by acting calm and being well-dressed, asking friends to help with errands or other outings so they don’t have to go outdoors, and relying on a social network to avoid police checkpoints.
Kelley said such strategies may discourage full reporting of crimes, reduce parental involvement in their children’s education and contribute to a less engaged community overall.
U.S. immigration officials say millions of Mexican nationals now live in the United States either legally or illegally. That number is expected to swell. Some newcomers will get nice jobs in skyscrapers, live in great apartments and pay taxes.
And some — will stand on street corners for jobs, play the deportation roulette and hope for a life that now is but a splinter in their mind’s eye. If and when that day comes, it will be their own personal independence day.