“If all unauthorized immigrants were removed from Alabama, the state would lose $2.6 billion in economic activity, $1.1 billion in gross state product, and approximately 17,819 jobs, even accounting for adequate market adjustment time, according to a report by the Perryman Group,” reads a statement from the American Immigration Council.

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Illegals worth $2.6 billion

Our New Look

This gallery contains 3 photos.

After finding this Saul Bass-inspired Tumblr theme, I’ve decided to ditch the neat, well-behaved blue and white graphics and the Twenty Ten template in favor of and edgier black-and yellow-on-red design. I’ll be putting together graphics for a Spring Hill student launch party November 3, which I’m quite excited about. Stay tuned for updates

So many stories

photo by hvaldez1 via stock xchng

photo by hvaldez1 via stock xchng

There are so many stories out there of families who are being hurt by Alabama’s new immigration bill, and more are being told as the media does their job, and as people reach out to one another through phone calls, conversation, social media, and email. I got my first Spanish language email a few days ago from a woman named Mariana. A friend helped me translate it since was entirely in Spanish.

Mariana’s story is similar in its broad strokes to the story of many other immigrants, but is unique in its details. Mariana moved here with her parents when she was young. She and her parents are hardworking and honest in general, although they broke the law in crossing the border.
Mariana’s parents have a story of their own—a bootstraps business story of starting with nothing and slowly building a business based on providing a worthwhile product for the community. Now, like all other undocumented business owners in the state, they are facing losing their business under HB 56. Among it’s many harsh and probably unconstitutional provisions, business owners cannot renew their business licenses in Alabama.

Mariana has been through her own share of heartaches and loss, but the thing I noticed throughout her 3 emails is a total lack of complaint. Some of her difficulties come from this law, but others are accidents and still others are just from rotten luck. I’m looking forward to sharing her story, and that of her parents with you soon. There are 18 or so stories so far—enough to launch the campaign.

Immigrants get Help from the Feds

photo by Jason Morrison via stck xcng

photo by Jason Morrison via stck xcng

Michael Laws posted a link to this CNN story today that brings some welcome, although temporary relief to immigrants in Alabama. The news story states that “A federal appeals court has blocked enforcement of parts of a controversial immigration enforcement law in Alabama.”

The blocked provisions of the law concern schools asking about immigration status, and the criminalization of not carrying papers. Over 2000 Hispanic students were absent from Alabama schools the day after the law went into effect, and school employees have expressed concern that students may be staying away because of the new law.

How long will this last? According to CNN, some of the provisions of HB 56 will be “…put on hold until the larger constitutional questions can be addressed, a process that could take some months at least.” What’s really going on is a pitched battle between states and the Federal government over who can shape and enforce immigration policy.

The effects of HB 56 have already been felt however. Alabama is regaining a Jim Crow reputation most though long gone, Crops are rotting in the fields, the economy is suffering, and many families are sequestered or have already fled the state.

Tweaks and Updates

It’s a gorgeous Saturday morning here in Midtown Mobile, AL. I’ve spent the past couple of days adding content and upgrading the graphics for Becoming Visible. Some of the changes include:

  • a sidebar Follow Blog via Email button. Please use this to follow the campaign.
  • a sidebar link to sign an online petition by United We Dream to oppose HB 56
  • more sidebar links to sympathetic organizations. Do you know of others?
  • a News page with links to stories about HB 56 in the media
  • an About page where I introduce myself and the goals of the campaign
  • a Stories page with first-person narratives found in the media, along with a Facebook-syle “invisible portrait” of each immigrant. This is the focal point of the campaign.
  • a Support page that explains what you can do to support the campaign.

So what do you think of the site and the Becoming Visible campaign? Would your friends and family be likely to support it? Do you have constructive suggestions to improve any of it? I’m all ears. Actually, since this is a web site I guess I’m all eyes. Whatever. Please share the page on your FB wall and leave comments below…

Review of Petitions

Someone shared an online petition with me on Facebook recently, which I signed. This morning, over my second cup of coffee, I thought I’d look to see if other petitions exist. Wow! There are lots of them. If you’ve not signed an online petition lately, you may not know how easy it is to make one, and how convenient the online tools make them to share with friends, family, and co-workers.

There is a downside to all this convenience though. It’s so easy to create a petition these days that the more challenging job is to figure out where to focus your efforts in a popular cause like this. Oh, and at this point, please, please don’t create any more petitions. Instead, why not read my run-down of the top petitions on Google, sign the top one or two, and share the link through your social media contacts.

My First True Story

I hope the Becoming Visible Campaign can humanize immigration policy by telling true, human stories. But for the past couple of weeks I’ve had a hard time finding those stories. I teach at a private college and live in a middle class neighborhood in Mobile, and I don’t see too many Hispanics. But today I found this wonderfully compelling story in a CNN news report by Gustavo Valdes. Gabriella Velazquez is a mom taking her kids out of school and packing up everything. It’s happening all over Alabama right now. Here’s a condensed version of the story, shifted to the first person for even more empathy:

I am Gabriella. Tonight I’m packing to leave Alabama. I crossed over into the U.S. with nothing but my clothes, and I’m going back the same way. You never know what life will bring. When we left our family in Mexico, they didn’t know what would happen to us. But my husband Marco became a carpet installer and I took jobs in restaurants, hotels and grocery stores. I was not planning on having kids, but here they are. I was not planning to sell everything to move back to Mexico either, but now I am. This law gives me no choice. My family is everything. I’ll make a final meal for my family tonight and get on a bus with my kids. My son asks, “Why do we have to go, why am I not going to school anymore?” His teacher is black, and she cried when I told her we are leaving. She told me about the struggles her people had in this same state. This law allows police to take me away from my children anytime, to disappear me, to make me invisible. So I will disappear before they do it for me. Isn’t that what they want anyway?

First Contacts

Today I had my first meeting about Becoming Visible—the new social media  campaign opposing HB 56. Father Ted Arroyo and Javier San Martin invited met to lunch at the Jesuit residence at Spring Hill College. I enjoyed chatting with them both, and they seemed to be impressed with the Campaign. Ted is the founder of the Jesuit Social Research Institute, a non-profit based at Loyola New Orleans focusing on poverty, racism, and immigration issues. Their conference “Imprisoned, Forgotten, and Deported” runs October 13-14. I plan to have some literature available there about the campaign. Ted also offered to put me in touch with several like-minded people around the state.