Opinion: Alabama Should Take a Closer Look at its Past

{Photo by: ajari}

Yesterday, I cried.

And then, I got really angry.

It happened when I read this story about what’s happening in Alabama after the most ludicrous immigration laws were passed there last week. Latino parents are withdrawing their children from schools there fearing a new law that requires schools to check students’ immigration status.

How can this be happening? And, more importantly, what does it say about who we are as a people and the kind of society we’re becoming?

School officials claim the state is only trying to compile statistics, but if you were undocumented, would you actually believe that? I know I wouldn’t and I would do the same thing many of these parents are doing which is either keeping their kids from school or withdrawing them because they’re moving elsewhere. Obviously, Alabama doesn’t want them there.

I cried because I thought about my 5-year-old daughter who absolutely loves her school and while she enjoys weekends just as much as anybody else, Monday can never come soon enough. It might have to do with the newness of it all, since she just started kinder. Or maybe she’ll just be one of those children who will always likes school. Either way, I imagined having to withdraw her from school for fear that we might be targeted and persecuted. And my heart got really tight.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying it’s okay for people to enter the United States illegally, but the reality is that they are already here and we can’t ignore that. (Why they are here is a whole other story that would require its own separate post, but suffice it to say that it has a lot to do with supply and demand.) For many of them, especially those who were brought here when they were little or those who were born here, this is the only country they’ve ever known. In fact, many of them don’t even speak Spanish.

I also cried because I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be a child and live like that. Unfortunately, leaving in fear of what could happen is the norm for many of these kids and undoubtedly that takes a toll. In fact, a Harvard study released two weeks ago showed the seriously negative effects of growing up as the child of an undocumented immigrant. According to the study, ““It affects their cognitive development, engagement in school and their ability to be emerging citizens.” A glimpse into the next generation.

I don’t know what the solution is. But I do that no child should ever be denied an education. Ever. And while the law in Alabama doesn’t say that if parents can’t prove they’re here legally, they can’t enroll their children, asking them their immigration status is enough to scare them into hiding considering the anti-immigrant atmosphere in this country the last few years.

In the end, I also cried because I feel like instead of moving forward, laws like the ones passed in Alabama seem to suggest that we, in fact, are going backward. Then again, it’s Alabama we’re talking about here. Seems to me like this is a classic case of  ”those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (Spanish-American philosopher George Santayana.)

I pray I’m wrong.

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