Utility company PROHIBITING illegal immigrants from obtaining electric, gas, water or sewer service in Alabama
November 8, 2011 Leave a comment
A major utilities company in Alabama is now prohibiting illegal immigrants from receiving electricity, gas, water or wastewater services to heated reactions on both sides, but they’re just following the law.
The Decatur Utilities company is now one of many in the state that follows the newly signed immigration law which prohibits business with illegal immigrants in the state or its subdivisions.
‘We did not [originally] document or confirm whether or not they were citizens or aliens
here legally,’ Stephen Pirkle, Decatur business manager and chief financial officer told the Decatur Daily.
‘Because of the new law, we are now going through
the process to confirm that they are either a citizen or an alien here
legally. If not, we will deny them service,’ he added.
Section 30 of the Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act, signed into law on June 9th of this year, will make it a felony offense, encouraging businesses like Decatur Utilities, with over 30,000 customers, to check customer’s citizenship before service.
‘They won’t have to do that every time they transact business,’ Mr Pirkle, said, however, ‘For aliens who are here legally, we’ll have to continue to verify on an ongoing basis, to make sure the reason they are here has not expired,’ he added.
But just weeks before winter, there are expressed concerns of those affected living without heat this season, illegal or not.
‘I’m listening to these songs about charity and compassion,’ Stephen Stetson, a policy analyst for Alabama Arise referenced Christmas songs already on the radio to the Decatur Daily, saying, ‘It struck me as a cruel and ironic policy as we head into the coldest months of the year.’
snow and ice is rare in the southern state, with most winter months
hitting a low of 40(F) degrees, they have seen far colder months before.
Mr Stetson additionally argues that
the law could victimize the children of illegals who could be legal
citizens of the U.S. themselves.
‘It’s designed to make life more difficult,’ he says.
‘By destroying households and families, it’s doing that.’
Agreeing in some ways to that, but in
focus on the justice for tax payers and legal citizens, State
Representative Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, who sponsored the law, praised
the Decatur utility company for their move.
‘Our goal was to prevent any business transactions with any governments,’ Mr Hammon told the Daily.
‘It’s just an extension of the goal of the entire bill — to prevent
illegal immigrants from coming to Alabama and to discourage those that
are here from putting down roots,’ he added.
‘It seems to be working. We’re seeing a lot of illegal immigrants self-deport,’ he said.
But the Decatur Utility company is not alone.
Huntsville utilities, which serves around 164,000 customers – nearly five and a half times Decatur’s customer base – has also implemented a policy of denying services to illegals like Decatur’s, according to their communications director, Bill Yell.
All other municipal utilities in the region who are members of the Electric Cities – which together report a million customers – are also denying the service, according to Mr Pirkle.
‘If you’re already a customer and you already have service with us — and there’s no discontinuation of service — we don’t have to do anything,’ Mr Pirkle however explained.
Prior to being signed into law this past June, the law was challenged by the U.S. Department of Justice, religious leaders as well as a group of civil rights organizations and advocates.
Particular portions of the originally proposed law would have criminalized renting to, harboring or transporting an illegal immigrant as well.
A proposal of blocking illegal immigrants from enrolling in state universities was also cut out, in addition to checking the citizenship of students.
However, Mr Hammon notes, ‘we have a conspiracy clause in there,’ he says.
‘Anybody who assists illegal immigrants through any of these processes,’ in terms of business, ‘will also be guilty of a felony’ he says.
‘Our goal has always been to make sure
Alabama jobs and taxpayer-funded resources are going to legal Alabama
residents,’ Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, R-Anniston, said at the
time of the June signing, according to AlabamaLive.com.
Across the state, news of the law to both legal and illegal immigrant families has spread panic.
Illegal parents in the state have since begun signing paper work that would re-assign custody of their children, those who are legal citizens, if they are deported.
‘People are scared, and they want to be sure their kids are safe if something happens to them,’ Jazmin Rivera, a social worker at the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama who helps Spanish-speaking immigrants with their paperwork told the Associated Press.
The state Department of Education released enrollment figures last Wednesday showing that 34,220 Hispanic students were enrolled in Alabama schools on the 20th day of school, which was around Oct. 4 for most school systems.
That was about a week after the immigration law took effect.
The enrollment figures showed the number of Hispanic students was up 960 from the same time last year, but they do not show how many left school between the time the law took effect Sept. 29 and when the enrollment count was taken.
‘We’re afraid to go back to Mexico because of the drugs, the cartels and the killings,’ Cristian Gonzalez, 28, who lives illegally in the state, told the AP, adding, ‘and we are afraid to stay here because of the law.’
It’s estimated that 150,000 illegals, from Mexico and Central America, live and work in the state.