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Illegal Workers in Alabama: The Exodus

Alabama chases out illegal workers, slowing efforts to rebuild

When the city of Tuscaloosa, Ala., begins rebuilding more than 5,300 homes and businesses damaged or destroyed by an Apr. 27 tornado, it may find itself missing many of the people it needs to put the city together again. That’s what Ever Duarte, head of the city’s Hispanic soccer league, predicts after losing a third of his teams in a week. Tuscaloosa County’s 6,000-strong Hispanic population—including roofers, drywallers, framers, landscapers, and laborers—is disappearing in anticipation of a new law aimed at ridding the state of illegal immigrants, which takes effect in September. “They’re leaving now, right now,” says Duarte, 36, during a pause in a pickup soccer game. “I know people who are packing up tonight. They don’t want to wait to see what happens.” Two weeks ago, he says, his league had 12 teams. “Last week, it was eight.”

Governor Robert Bentley, a Republican, signed the 72-page measure on June 9, calling it “the strongest immigration bill in the country.” Alabama became the fifth state to enact new, stricter sanctions against undocumented workers, following Arizona, Utah, Indiana, and Georgia. Proposed laws failed this year in 22 states, including Colorado, Florida, Kentucky, and Louisiana.