Undocumented immigrants who flooded out of the state of Alabama after its crackdown on illegal immigration are now beginning to trickle back, unable to find work elsewhere and missing the place that had been home for years.
Ana Jimenez and her husband were so terrified of being sent back to their native Mexico when Alabama’s tough crackdown on illegal immigrants took effect that they fled more than 2,000 miles to Los Angeles, cramming into a two-bedroom apartment with more than 20 other relatives.
Now they are among the families coming back to cities like Birmingham, as the mass deportations never materialized and courts blocked parts of the law. No one knows how many people initially left the state, so it’s impossible to say how many have returned.
Of 18 Hispanic immigrants interviewed by The Associated Press in the Birmingham area, six said they had friends or relatives who had returned to Alabama after fleeing because of the law.
As for Jimenez, she left Birmingham with her husband, father and brother three days after the law took effect. Now, all except her brother are back. Jimenez said through a translator that not much had changed, though she can’t reclaim her job at a McDonald’s restaurant because managers are checking citizenship papers.
The Obama administration, immigrant groups and others sued over Alabama’s law, and the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is set to consider arguments about it on March 1. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments a month later over Arizona’s crackdown on illegal immigration, which isn’t considered as strict as Alabama’s.
And while there are families returning, some officials say they haven’t heard anything to suggest the numbers are huge. Zayne Smith, an immigration attorney with the nonprofit Alabama Appleseed legal center in Montgomery, said she had been hearing that some people wanted to wait until after the 11th Circuit considers the case in March.
Some initially feared the law would mean that people would be rounded up, or that “you’d be stopped just for being Hispanic,” said Ferreti, an anthropologist from the University of Texas who is living in Tuscaloosa, about 60 miles southwest of Birmingham, for her studies. “That has not happened, but people are aware that racial profiling is going on if you are Hispanic. They are still uneasy.”