Alabama can be daunting for newcomers, especially when there are cultural and language barriers. More than 20 years ago, Isabel Rubio founded the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama to assist Latinos who migrate to the state and to push for economic equality, civic engagement and social justice. Last month, Rubio announced she would step down as CEO of the organization at the end of the year.
WBHM’s Janae Pierre spoke with Rubio about her time leading HICA, who discussed how Alabama’s Latino community has changed over the years, the effect of the state’s immigration law, and her proudest moments with HICA.
A coalition of about 100 organizations nationwide delivered petitions to Regions Bank headquarters in Birmingham on Thursday asking the bank to not do business with companies that run private prisons and immigrant detention centers.
Also Thursday, the group, functioning under the banner of Families Belong Together, delivered similar petitions to Citizens Bank in Providence, Rhodes Island, and to Pinnacle and Synovus Banks in Nashville.
Families Belong Together along with shareholders, policymakers and investors already have been the catalysts in persuading the banks to withhold about $2.4 billion in lines of credit and loans to private prison businesses. Read more.
Two migrant workers arrested by immigration officers in Homewood last month were released on bond Wednesday following fund-raising and petition drives by Adelante Alabama Worker Center.
Marcos Baltazar, a member of the Adelante board of directors, and his son, Juan, 18, spent the month in detention facilities at the Etowah County Jail in Gadsden and in Jena, La.
Both facilities have been cited by human rights groups for their inhumane treatment of detainees, said Reysha Swanson of Adelante, a non-profit organization based in Hoover that unites migrant workers and their families. Read more.
Read BirminghamWatch’s coverage on the Etowah Detention Center and immigration:
Immigration Detention Prolonged in Alabama’s ‘Black Hole’ (Associated Press)
Where Cities Help Detain Immigrants (CityLab)
Awot Negash’s troubles with U.S. immigration officials began in 2001 and spiraled two years ago when Immigration and Enforcement officials knocked on his suburban Washington, D.C., home.
He eventually wound up in a controversial immigrant detention center in Gadsden.
He has been arrested and sent to two centers where immigration officials hold immigrants. He describes the Etowah center in Gadsden as inefficient, unorganized, chaotic and dysfunctional.
Immigration actions in Alabama and Mississippi recently underscore the point: The campaign against undocumented residents is nationwide, not just on the southern U.S. border.
That’s no surprise to at least one group in Birmingham – the lawyers who specialize in immigration disputes and have been handling growing caseloads.
Local immigration attorneys said that where once individuals would have been released on bond, now they are being sent to detainment centers until their court dates, and it could take months or sometimes years for court dates to be scheduled. Read more.
Alabama Site for Detained Immigrants Has History of Abuse Charges, Efforts to Close It
As 2020 rolls in, BirminghamWatch looks back at its biggest stories of 2019, highlighting a different one each day.
After immigration officers detained Marcos Baltazar and his son, Juan, in Homewood one morning last week, the two men were in the Etowah County Detention Center in Gadsden by nightfall.
Their destination spotlights the Etowah center, a controversial facility adjoining the county jail in Gadsden where federal authorities detain immigrants.
The center has drawn critics’ protests and attempts to close it for years, and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office itself tried to close the facility in 2010. That effort hit a maelstrom of resistance from local political officials and their supporters in Congress.
Reports on the center cited deficiencies and violations of federal standards in a number of areas, including crowding, discrimination, retaliation, a lack of adequate mental health care and in many cases no effective medical care, poor food and hygiene at the center and practices that curtailed inmates’ ability to communicate with the outside world. Read more.
Updated — Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers in Homewood today detained a board member of Adelante Alabama Worker Center, a human rights group based in Hoover that has been active in obtaining the release of immigrant detainees.
Marcos Baltazar and his son, who’s name was not disclosed, were detained, said Resha Swanson, Adelante policy and communications coordinator.
The two, who are immigrants, were making a routine check-in with ICE at the time of their arrest. Read more.
Thousands of unaccompanied minors remain detained a week out from the deadline for the Trump administration to reunite children with their parents.
The Office of Refugee Resettlement says 453 children have been resettled in Alabama this year through April. It isn’t known how many since then. Children released from detention are placed into foster care shelters or with relatives who are approved as sponsors.
The problem is, many relatives are afraid to come forward to take in these children. That’s because they’re required to disclose their immigration status to private resettlement agencies and the Department of Homeland Security.
Isabel Rubio, director of the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama, says relatives are still worried. “People are concerned that if their information is sent to the Department of Homeland Security that they are at higher risk for deportation because now immigration knows exactly who they are and where they live.”
Read more coverage on immigration:
Unaccompanied Immigrant Children Find Foster Homes in Alabama
Some Immigrant Children Being Reunited With Families
Separating Immigrant Families Violates Country’s ‘Belief of Faith and Family,” Jones Says
Amid Immigration Controversy, More Hispanic Students Arrive in Alabama Classrooms
Federal officials have placed 2,729 unaccompanied immigrant children in Alabama since 2015, with most finding foster homes in Jefferson, Marshall, Morgan and Tuscaloosa counties.
Of those, 453 found foster homes in Alabama this year through April, according to the Office of Refugee Resettlement of the U.S. Health and Human Services Department. Information on how many children have been settled in the state since April – including during the recent separation of families as part of a zero-tolerance policy – is not yet available.
In fact, little information is publicly known about the children after they are placed. Read more.