Search Results for: immigration

Despite Immigration Law, 40 Percent of New Hires Are Not Checked Through E-Verify

Many Alabama employees aren’t being screened to confirm their legal status to work in the United States, despite a 2011 state law requiring businesses to use the federal E-Verity system.

A recent report in the publication Stateline, an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts, said only 60 percent of new Alabama hires were screened with E-Verify in the year ending in June 2017. That’s up from 14 percent in 2011, before the state’s anti-illegal immigration law went into effect.

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Now, state Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, proposes requiring employers to prove their E-Verify usage before obtaining business licenses. He has a bill ready for the 2019 legislative session that mirrors a law in Georgia, where 94 percent of employees were screened through E-Verify, according to Pew.

Orr recently said there will always be bad actors who don’t follow the law, but he thinks some businesses are simply ignorant about it.
“They don’t know about the law or don’t think it applies to them,” Orr said. “Until someone is telling them or reminding them, they’ll continue to be ignorant.”
Read more.

In Birmingham, U.S. Attorney Town Says, “It’s Guns, It’s Dope, It’s Illegal Immigration, It Is Opioids”

Jay Town, one of the three Trump administration-appointed U.S. attorneys for Alabama, indicates there should be no mystery about his priorities in the Northern District of Alabama. They closely align with those outlined by the Justice Department under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, he said.

“I think that General Sessions and the department made it very clear before I was sworn what the priorities of the department and, especially the criminal division, were,” Town said. “So, it’s guns, it’s dope, it’s illegal immigration, it is opioids. And we are executing those priorities very well.

“We recently released our fiscal ’17 numbers, and in all of those areas we had very robust numbers in terms of our prosecutions last year in comparison to the previous year and years.”

Town’s jurisdiction is centered in Birmingham, the state’s most populous city in its largest metro area, and encompasses the Huntsville-Madison County area, a hub of U.S. government work.

His office’s priorities reflect some of the problems endemic to this part of the state. Town said that, while priorities are shared among the 93 U.S. attorneys, “The way we are executing them, perhaps, is a little different.”
Read more.

Amid Immigration Controversy, More Hispanic Students Arrive in Alabama Classrooms

Lipscomb Elementary School, tucked away on a quiet neighborhood street, does not draw a lot of attention to itself. Its enrollment numbers, however, show a dramatic story of Alabama’s growing Hispanic population.

The school in the Jefferson County school system is a plain red-brick complex near Bessemer, Birmingham and Brighton and Midfield. It serves grades K-5, and is a Title I school. That means most of its students are from low-income families and need additional resources, primarily in math and English, so they can learn on the same level as their better-off counterparts elsewhere in the system.

Fifteen years ago, Lipscomb had 188 students, most of them black, with a handful of whites. Today it has 254 students, and the enrollment is almost evenly split among Hispanics and blacks. Most of the Hispanic students are U.S.-born, mostly of Mexican heritage, and about 80 of them are taking English as a Second Language classes.

Reflecting the growing Hispanic presence in its classrooms and hallways, Lipscomb held Hispanic heritage month from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 last year. During that month, the children danced and sampled food prepared by parents of some of their fellow students; each classroom did research on a Spanish-speaking country south of the border.

Lipscomb recently observed Black History Month, and principal Reta Hayes says its chief lesson was “that even though we may be all of different cultures, and (though) we may be of different colors overall, we are still one big happy family.”

Different cultures and colors have been a growing fact of life in Alabama public schools in recent decades. Enrollment figures from the state Department of Education for the current academic year show nearly 727,000 students in K-12, a decline of 11 percent over last year due to a drop in both white and black enrollment. Statewide Hispanic/Latino numbers, however, showed an increase, rising 6 percent over last year to total 57,817, or about 8 percent of the total K-12 enrollment. In 2000-01, the K-12 Hispanic total was 9,541, or about 16 percent of the current figure.

Read more.

You just touched on some issues — immigration and guns — that are very hot-button issues for Alabama voters. For those issues, it seems that you have to balance between the more liberal parts of your voter base and the conservative majority of the state.

They’re voters, for sure. But I’ve told people in my campaign, “Don’t expect me to pass a litmus test for one side or the other.” I continue to get asked, “Are you liberal, conservative, moderate, progressive, what?” And I say, “Don’t label me! I’m Doug, and I’m going to vote the way I feel. I’m certainly not going to pass the far left’s litmus test any more than I’m going to pass the far right’s litmus tests. Read more.

Legislative Overview: Lawmakers Take up Bills on Abortion, Immigration and Death Sentencing in First Week.

Alabama legislators kick-started their session last week, with committees approving bills on abortion, sanctuary campuses and death penalty sentences, among other topics. Those bills could go to the floor of the House or Senate this week.

The governor’s recommendations for the General Fund and Education Trust Fund budgets also were introduced last week but have yet to come up for a vote. Read more.

Federal shutdown affects employees, programs in Alabama

Feeling like a “political pawn,” Takara Shelton reported to work Friday at the Federal Correctional Institution at Talladega.

“We’re upset, frustrated,” said Shelton, a cook foreman at the federal lockup. “We are coming to work, putting gas in our cars, keeping the public and the inmates safe, and we are not getting paid for it and don’t know when we will.”

Shelton is among more than 700 Alabama residents who are employees of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, which operates three prisons in the state, and were supposed to be paid this weekend. But no pay is in sight for them because of the partial federal shutdown that began Dec. 22.

Alabama has about 50,000 federal workers, including post office employees, and an estimated 5,500 of them are on unpaid status because of the partial federal shutdown. Among the unpaid are employees of the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Interior, Transportation and Homeland Security, plus a dozen smaller agencies.

Most of those who are not being paid are on furlough, meaning they are not working. These include 2,200 NASA employees in Huntsville and most of the employees of departments of Agriculture (1,028), Commerce (318) and Interior (149).

But the prison workers are among employees who are required to continue working – even though they are not being paid during the shutdown – in jobs that are deemed essential because they are safety and security related. These include employees of Transportation Security Administration, Federal Bureau of Prisons,and Department of Homeland Security.

The partial shutdown has shuttered a number of federal offices around the state. It also threatens federally funded programs for home loans, low-income housing and SNAP, the food-assistance program used by more than 800,000 Alabama residents.
Read more.

Congressional Votes for the Week Ending Jan. 4

WASHINGTON – In a partisan vote, the House last week agreed to a continuing resolution (HJ Res 1) that would fund the Department of Homeland Security through Feb. 8, giving Congress and President Trump more time to negotiate his request for up to $5.7 billion this year for building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. The department has been partially closed since Dec. 22. Alabama’s representatives also voted along party lines on the bill, with Democratic Rep. Terri Sewell approving it and the rest opposing.

The Best of BirminghamWatch in 2018

Air pollution in low-income areas, the economic rebirth of the western area, the last white Democrats in the state’s Legislature, these are just some of the stories BirminghamWatch developed this year. Here’s a sampling of BirminghamWatch’s best work in 2018. Read more.

County’s Major Air Polluters Concentrated in Low-Income, Minority Neighborhoods

Seventy-one percent of Jefferson County’s 31 major sources of pollution – those emitting enough pollution to require a permit under Title V of the Clean Air Act – are located in low-income areas, a BirminghamWatch analysis found.

U.S. Attorneys: Leading the Justice Department on the Ground in Alabama

BirminghamWatch interviewed the three U.S. Attorneys appointed by Trump, who all said violent
crime would be a priority during their tenures.

Trump’s Budget Wish List: What It Could Mean for Alabama

BirminghamWatch took a look this year at a number of the programs on President Trump’s chopping block and asked, “What If.”

Written in Black and White: In Alabama’s Statehouse, the Parties Are Split Almost Entirely by Race

When newly elected Neil Rafferty takes his place in the Alabama House of Representatives next year, he will be the only white Democrat in the 105-seat chamber With one other white Democrat in the Senate, the Alabama Legislature’s two parties are almost entirely divided by race. An all-white GOP has a supermajority

Guarded: Alabama Correctional Officers Work Long Hours in Dangerous Conditions for Low Pay – and There Aren’t Nearly Enough of Them

Update: The debate about making prisons better – and safer – has been simmering for years. But because of more violence in the prisons, look for the Legislature in 2019 to consider multiple bills aimed at the prisons, including one to significantly increase the number of correctional officers. A recent report showed that south Alabama’s Holman Correctional Facility was functioning with only 40 percent staffing. The governor also reportedly is considering moves to pay private companies to develop prison space and lease it to the state. Also on the table for prisons, a federal judge is considering whether Alabama prisons should be held in contempt for continued shortages in mental health staff.

The Tyranny of Sales Tax: Alabama Cities Rely on It. Walmart is the Sought-After Retailer. But E-Commerce Threatens.

In Alabama, the big catch for the state’s economic development prospectors is a manufacturing plant and its hundreds, maybe thousands, of high-paying jobs. But individual cities go to great lengths to get big-box retailers to set up shop in their city limits, deploying consultants and dangling incentives. They’re following the money. Because of the state’s tax laws, the largest single source of municipal tax revenues is sales tax.

Coal Ash Ponds Leach Toxins into Alabama Groundwater, Waterways, Analysis Finds. ADEM Fines Power Companies, but Route to Remedy Uncertain.

Significant levels of toxic materials are leaching into the state’s groundwater and waterways from the millions of cubic yards of coal ash stored in massive, unlined storage ponds adjacent to six electrical power generating plants, including plants in Shelby, Jefferson and Walker counties.

In Soap-Making and Landscaping, ‘Creative’ Entrepreneurs Get Help Building Business Skills from Co.Starters

A designer, a scuba diver, an art curator, a furniture maker. They all share something in common – seeking and receiving help with the business side of their creative work from the Co.Starters program of Create Birmingham.

Ready, Set, Action: Birmingham’s Become a Film-Making Destination That Brings Jobs, Millions of Dollars to Economy

The Magic City is not quite Hollywood, yet. But Birmingham’s economy is getting a show business-sized boost with millions of film dollars flowing into the local economy. The city’s Red Mountain substituted for the Hollywood Hills, wearing the famous HOLLYWOOD sign in “Bigger,” one of dozens of films made in metro Birmingham in recent years.

All’s Not Quiet at Birmingham Public Library: Board Surveys Employees after Criticism of Director

Update: The Birmingham Public Library Board has set out a “corrective action plan” for library Executive Director Floyd Council.
A survey asking the Birmingham Public Library’s 285 employees about staff morale was conducted in the spring amid growing concerns over employee dissatisfaction and public criticism of the library’s new executive director. One staff member said discontent is high and morale low among many library employees because of what some employees called Council’s belittling comments, lack of appropriate communication, disrespect, micromanagement and a growing “environment of suspicion” at the library.

Amazon’s a Big Deal, but West Jefferson’s Economic Rebirth is Bigger and Broader

The television cameras were in action and the local politicians were all smiling at the recent announcement of a huge new distribution center in Bessemer for Amazon, the online retail behemoth. It’s a project that will bring an estimated 1,500 jobs, and it makes for a great picture of a down-on-its-heels part of Alabama that is remaking itself for the digital age. But in fact, the Bessemer Cut-Off area — the traditional name for the separate division of Jefferson County that has its own courthouse and other separate government functions — has been in transformation from steelmaking, mining and heavy manufacturing for the past decade or so.

As Alabama’s Unemployment Rate Decreases, Medicaid Enrollment Does Not

Alabama’s unemployment rate hit record lows in the past year, falling below 4 percent, but the number of people enrolled in Medicaid hasn’t decreased. Medicaid, the health care provider for the state’s poor and disabled, has higher enrollment now than when the unemployment rate hit nearly 12 percent in 2009. While more people are working, not all of them are in jobs that pay enough to get their families off Medicaid, advocates say.

Amid Immigration Controversy, More Hispanic Students Arrive in Alabama Classrooms

Lipscomb Elementary School, tucked away on a quiet neighborhood street, does not draw a lot of attention to itself. Its enrollment numbers, however, show a dramatic story of Alabama’s growing Hispanic population.

Written in Black and White: In Alabama’s Statehouse, the Parties Are Split Almost Entirely by Race

When newly elected Neil Rafferty takes his place in the Alabama House of Representatives next year, he will be the only white Democrat in the 105-seat chamber

With one other white Democrat in the Senate, the Alabama Legislature’s two parties are almost entirely divided by race. An all-white GOP has a supermajority.

“You can’t deny the optics at times,” Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, said about the party and racial split. He’s been a lawmaker since 2006 and has seen the racial polarization increase as the white Democrats dwindled in numbers.

Less than 10 years ago, in the 2006-2010 term, there were 62 Democrats in the House. More than half of them were white, said House public information officer Clay Redden. Now, there are 28 Democrats total. Republicans picked up five more seats in last week’s election.

In all, more than 75 percent of the members of the Legislature were white less than a decade ago, and more than 60 percent were Democrats, according to an analysis done at the time by The Birmingham News.

Being the minority race in the minority party isn’t something Rafferty, D-Birmingham, said he’s thought too much about.

“I’m going to go down there with humility and an eagerness and willingness to work with my colleagues, all of my colleagues, for the betterment of the state and House District 54,” he said last week.

But race has been an issue in the Statehouse in recent years.

England is concerned that, without diversity among parties, all issues begin to be viewed in a racial context.

“Racial issues are important, they are, but not everything is racial,” he said. “You don’t want everything to be painted with a broad brush because of the messenger and lose the message.” Read more.

Everyone Knew It Was Coming, But Sessions’ Ouster From the Justice Department so Soon After the Mid-Terms Landed With a Boom

Barely 12 hours after the smoke had cleared from the 2018 mid-term elections, another political bomb exploded Wednesday afternoon when news came that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions had resigned at the request of President Donald Trump.

That Sessions was on his way out was not a shock. The former U.S. senator from Mobile had been one of the first well-known supporters of Trump in the presidential campaign. But shortly after he took the cabinet position, he became a thorn in Trump’s side by recusing himself from supervising the investigation into collusion by Russia during the 2016 election.

Trump chafed at the move by Sessions both publicly and privately, accusing Sessions of being disloyal and not acting in Trump’s defense. The rift grew during the two years Sessions served in the post.

Sessions’ departure had been expected for months, though political advisers told Trump to wait until after the mid-terms. He did so, barely — Sessions was told by Chief of Staff Mike Kelly to hand in his resignation on Wednesday afternoon, and he did.

Reaction to Sessions’ stepping down was quick, most of it praising Sessions or speculating on his next moves and what they could mean for politics in the state. Read more.

BirminghamWatch Recommends: A Roundup of Stories on Sessions’ Firing

Alabama Residents Protest Sessions’ Departure (WBHM)

Jeff Sessions Executed the Agenda of a President Who Could Not Look Past a Betrayal (New York Times)

Jeff Sessions Pushed out After a Year of Attacks From Trump (Associated Press)

Former AL Senator Jeff Sessions Resigns as Attorney General (WBHM)

How Sessions’s Firing Could Affect the Russia Investigation (New York Times)

‘You’re Fired:’ A Timeline of Team Trump Departures (Washington Post)

The Latest Drama in Trump’s Slow-Motion Saturday Night Massacre (The Atlantic)

Jeff Sessions Will Run for Senate in 2020, Analyst Says (AL.com)