New Alabama Law Encourages Neighbors to Spy on and Report Suspected Undocumented Immigrants Next Door

Law enforcement officials across Alabama were unsure how they would enforce — let alone pay for — HB 56, the state’s draconian immigration law, when it went into effect. Terry Davis, the president of the Alabama Association of Chiefs of Police, warned that officers were stretched too thin by the far-reaching demands of the new law, in addition to their regular duties.

One sheriff in Limestone County told the Athens News-Courier that his department’s resources are being strained to the breaking point by investigations prompted by the immigration law — including people asking police to investigate if their neighbors are undocumented immigrants:

Sheriff Mike Blakely said most of his department’s resources are not being stretched thin because of illegal immigration arrests, but instead because of investigations into the alleged mistreatment of illegal immigrants. […]

In terms of the arrests of illegal immigrants, the sheriff said there hasn’t been a noticeable increase because he feels many illegal immigrants have left the community. However, he said the department’s call volume is rising because residents want officers to investigate neighbors who they believe are illegal.

“There’s a lot of people confused about the law and people are getting frustrated with us,” he said. “If they suspect someone is illegal, we can’t just go out and check them out. The law prohibits us from doing that. We can contact ICE, but unless they’re committing a crime, we have no authority (to arrest them).”

Alabama’s anti-immigrant law is already a clear disaster for community safety, distracting police from focusing on violent crime and leading immigrant communities to distrust law enforcement officials. Equally disturbing is the evidence that the law is undermining the fabric of communities by sowing suspicion and turning neighbors against each other.