President Barack Obama told a Spanish-language newspaper this week that Alabama’s strict new immigration statute is “a bad law” that does not reflect American values.
“The idea that we have children afraid to go to school, because they feel afraid that their immigration status will lead to being detained…It’s wrong,” Obama was quoted as saying in La Opinion, the largest Spanish-language newspaper in the country. “We’re already seeing the impact in some school districts and high schools, where 20 or 25 percent of children aren’t going to class.”
The U.S. Justice Department has sued to block the law, saying it interferes with federal immigration enforcement.
The president also criticized elements of the law, that require aliens to carry proof of documentation and allow law enforcement to detain those they have a “reasonable suspicion” of being in the country illegally.
“All this makes the law, not just anti-immigrant, but I believe it doesn’t match our essential values as a country,” Obama was quoted as saying.
House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, criticized the president’s remarks Friday afternoon, saying the state’s immigration law was aimed at addressing failures to enforce federal immigration law.
“We need a president of the United States enforcing the laws of the land,” he said. “I’m sure a lot of people would like the government not to enforce the federal income tax law, but I don’t see that happening.”
Hubbard also criticized the president for making his comments in a Spanish-language newspaper.
“If he has something to say and has a problem with enforcing American laws, why doesn’t he say it in English to our face?” he said.
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals last month blocked the documentation and school reporting provisions while allowing the “reasonable suspicion” element to stand, along with other provisions in the immigration legislation.
A coalition of groups and individuals represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the National Immigration Law Center has also sued to block the law.
It was not clear what schools the president referred to in his 20 to 25 percent figure. Although the rate of absences among Hispanic students has been higher since the immigration law went into effect, the overall Hispanic student population has grown over last year, according to figures compiled by the state Department of Education. The growth rate, however, is about half of what it was last year.
– posted by Brian Lyman