Fearing deportation, parents seek guardians
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Terrified by Alabama’s strict new immigration crackdown, parents living in the state illegally say they are doing something that was unthinkable just days ago: asking friends, relatives, co-workers, and acquaintances to take their children if they are arrested or deported.
Many illegal immigrants signed documents in the past week allowing others to care for their children if needed, assistance groups say, and a couple living illegally in Shelby County extracted a promise from the man’s boss to send their three young children - all US citizens - to Mexico should they be jailed under the law.
A key sponsor of the measure, state Senator Scott Beason, said such concerns were not raised when legislators were considering the bill, and he wonders if the stories are designed to “pull on heart strings’’ and build sympathy for illegal immigrants.
Social worker Jazmin Rivera, who helps immigrants fill out paperwork, said many are now seeking legal documents called powers of attorney so friends and others could care for their children.
Beason, a Republican, has his doubts about how widespread such cases are.
“I would do whatever it took for my family to stay with me,’’ he said. “It’s beyond my comprehension that you would just leave your children anywhere.’’
Alabama’s law, regarded by many as the nation’s toughest, was passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature this year and signed by Governor Robert Bentley. A federal judge blocked some parts of it but allowed key pieces to stand, including a provision that allows police to hold suspected illegal immigrants without bond.
On Friday, the Justice Department and civil rights groups asked a federal appeals court to block the law, saying it could lead to discrimination against even legal residents.
However, the law will remain in effect at least until Nov. 29, when the appeals court said it would hear oral arguments.
Immigrant parents say that leaves them little choice other than to seek out people to care for their children because they fear the youngsters, many of whom are US citizens, will be left home alone or sent to foster care if they are nabbed under the law.