The impact of immigration on Alabama

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — As the topic of illegal immigration continues to be a hot button issue across the country, CBS 42 is taking a look at the impact on Alabama.

Immigration attorney JD Walker in Pelham estimates that he’ll see about 1,000 cases this year alone. He tells us he has a mix of documented and undocumented cases.

Many are seeking asylum in America, fearing for their life because of political opinion, race, or fender.
Others are seeking better opportunities.

“I think a lot of people are just trying to live that dream, just to be able to provide for their families I think that is the ultimate goal,” said Walker.

According to the Pew Research Center, there were 65,000 unauthorized immigrants in Alabama in 2014.  

From the suburbs in Jefferson and Shelby Counties to the far corners of the state, some of our very own neighbors may not be legal citizens.

Rev. E. Gray Bean, a pastor at St. Theresa Catholic Church in Leeds said he’s faced with a difficult decision every week. 

“I have 4 masses up there on Sunday and one of them is full of undocumented people, and most of them don’t speak any English, and that’s where I have to make a choice, am I going to be a man of law or a man of mercy,’ said Gray.

According to Walker, many cases consist of people seeking asylum in the United States. Often times immigrants worry their life is in danger because of political opinion, race, national origin or gender.

“We’ve always been a nation who can help people help themselves. Consequently it stands that Alabama is a state in which a a lot of immigrants migrate towards,” said Walker.

For some, there is concern that violence, drugs, and crime can follow across an unsecured border. 

“Many of the counties on the Mexico border, and that’s not the only border we need to control by the way, have lots of problems with drugs coming through,” said Eddie Fulmer, with gun rights group Bama Cary in Northport.

Fulmer is a strong supporter of stronger borders but believes the country should have open borders for those willing to do go about through the legal process.

“I am sympathetic to those who are not as fortunate as those of us who live in the United States, but it’s still important that we control our borders and we know who comes into our country and who doesn’t.” said Fulmer.

During the CBS 42 investigation, we were introduced to a recovering drug addict who admits he has fallen of the wagon. He claims the supply comes from out of the country before he buys in the Alabaster and Pelham areas. CBS 42 agreed not to identify the man for fear of his safety.

“I’ll buy it cheaper, it’s better quality than anything I’ve ever seen,” said the unidentified man.

Local law enforcement does get occasional calls from neighbors concerned about possible illegal immigration activity. Departments rely on guidance from the federal level on a case by case bases.

“If a hold is placed on the individual, we do that under their authority, if not when complete our contact, whether it be a traffic stop, or any other contact, than the individual is released,” said Larry Palmer.

With concern for national security, Walker knows immigration will continue to be a hot topic. He said he cannot speak to claims of violence and drugs within cartels that have been known to operate in Alabama.

He said all of his clients are simply trying to chase the American dream.

“They’re scared. I mean you have a lot of individuals who have been living here 15-20 years, and yes they came in undocumented or illegally, whatever term you want to put on it but they have been paying taxes, the only law they’ve broken is coming to the United States illegally,” said Walker.

CBS 42 reached out to U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration Customs and Enforcement for detailed statistics in Alabama, but did not hear back.

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