(Special from The Daily Grito)
It was the type of headline that should have sent off a national alarm: Students vanishing from Alabama schools. Instead, a nation that spent three years fastidiously following the investigation into one missing girl seemed to hardly notice a disappearance numbering in the thousands.
The headline, I should clarify, actually said they were Hispanic students. And there was no mystery for Nancy Grace to solve. Last week U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn decided to uphold key parts of Alabama’s anti-immigrant legislation, including a provision that requires public schools to verify students’ immigration status. The enactment of the legislation inspired many confused and terrified parents to pull their children– a number of whom are probably U.S. citizens– out of school.
Additional reporting painted an even more complicated picture: parents, fearful of deportation, were signing over custodial rights so that their children could stay in the country without them.
Immigration hardliners from the Grand Old Party used the opportunity to mock the families affected by the law in a tone of self-congratulation.
Alabama State Sen. Scott Beason dismissed the stories about family separation and student disappearances, saying that they were meant only to “… pull on heart strings.”
Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) appeared on the Laura Ingraham radio show to tell the conservative host that Alabama’s law is a “rational response” to the country’s immigration problem. Asked if “it’s bad that all these Hispanic kids have disappeared from the schools” (emphasis mine), Sessions called it only one of the “unpleasant, unfortunate consequences” of the broken system.
In an interview with Politico, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) went the farthest, calling the absences “intended consequences” of the law.
It is, apparently, an “intended” consequence for these students, some of them citizens, to miss school. For an Alabama child to save a seat on the bus for her best friend only to realize that she’s never coming back. For a mother to give her only son over to virtual strangers so that he might have a shot at the promise of America. What kind of leader “intends” for such things to happen?
“We don’t have the money in America to keep paying for the education of everybody else’s children from around the world,” Brooks said. “With respect to illegal aliens who are now leaving jobs in Alabama, that’s exactly what we want.”
There is one truth in Brook’s statement: immigrants are leaving jobs in Alabama. But American citizens aren’t filling those vacated, largely agricultural jobs. Instead, Alabama’s farmers are unable to find enough labor to harvest their crops. Blueberries, tomatoes and squash are dying on the vine. Call it less an intended consequence than “unpleasant, unfortunate” collateral damage that hard line Republicans are willing to accept, even in these hard times. Just like they are willing to say goodbye to the $130 million in taxes that undocumented immigrants pour into the cash-strapped state each year.
There is no way to compel these GOP leaders with logical arguments, nor with appeals to “family values.” A change in the polls would be nice, but that’s not the point either. There’s something deeper, disdainful, in the way they talk about “all these Hispanic kids.” Something’s rotten in Alabama … and in the Republican Party. It’s not just the blueberries.