Democrats don’t care if this legal immigrant has a job. Making America work again is not something they have very much interest in addressing. What’s most important to them is how the illegal immigrants they have welcomed into our country with open arms will vote…

There’s one question Sandra Langlois is sick of hearing in job interviews.

“Do you speak Spanish?”

Langlois doesn’t — and doesn’t think she should have to.

At 42, she already speaks two languages. Born in Germany, she moved to Pennsylvania as a child and learned to speak English fluently. She thought that would be enough to get a job in the United States.

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Now, as she waits for an interview at the Albertville unemployment office, she’s not sure it will be.

Hispanic immigrants, she says, have transformed the state she’s called home for decades. And the ones who came to the United States illegally, she says, make a tough job market even tougher.

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Langlois needs to find work, and fast: Her family is living in a motel after the power company turned out the lights in their trailer. She’s sharing a car and cell phone with her father-in-law.

The Spanish question, she says, has abruptly ended more than one interview. She hopes it won’t throw her out of the running this time, too.

“It’s kind of, really, discrimination,” she says. “If you’re not here legally, then you need to go ahead and go back home. … They need to come over here the right way. Don’t sneak over. Don’t stay here.”

It’s a sentiment that runs deep through some circles of this largely white, working-class town, which made headlines as the epicenter of Alabama’s efforts to crack down on illegal immigration. Five years later, people in Albertville are still split over the changes they’ve seen — and what they think should happen next.

So is the country.

A CNN/Kaiser Family Foundation poll (PDF) released this week reveals deep divides across the United States on immigration.

Working-class whites — a group some analysts say could play a decisive role in the presidential election — are far more likely than others to say immigrants who arrived illegally should be deported. More than half (55%) say that’s something the government should attempt, compared with 27% of white college grads.

Those statistics don’t surprise Glenda Barnes. The 70-year-old Albertville resident says she moved out of her neighborhood when immigrants started moving in. Her street started to go downhill, she says, as people crammed cars onto lawns and stopped taking care of homes.

“If you lived here, you’d understand,” she says. “Our town was so neat, a nice little town. Now it’s like we don’t care, and everything’s falling in.”

Rachel Zavaleta isn’t surprised by the numbers either. The 29-year-old still remembers what people shouted at her on the playground when she came to Albertville with her family nearly 20 years ago: Go back to Mexico.

A changing landscape

Debates about deporting immigrants who came here illegally aren’t just political talking points in Albertville; they’re personal.

This is a city where officials tried hard to force them out, in a state where lawmakers passed the toughest law in the country aimed at doing the same thing.

Five years later, even people who don’t see eye to eye on immigration can agree on one thing: It didn’t work.


Albertville proudly bills itself as “the Fire Hydrant Capital of the World,” for the Mueller factory that’s manufactured millions there. But across the state, it’s better known for another industry: poultry processing plants, which employ thousands of workers — many of them immigrants.

More than a quarter of the town’s roughly 22,000 residents are Hispanic. And Alabama’s 2011 immigration law scared many people who’d found jobs in the area.

Terrified they’d be rounded up and deported, they abandoned homes, pulled their kids out of school and moved to other states. Neighborhoods were left nearly empty. Shopping districts became ghost towns.

But in 2012, a federal appeals court gutted much of the law, ruling that parts of it were unconstitutional, including a requirement that public schools determine the immigration status of students and parents.

Now, Albertville’s Latino immigrant population is thriving once again. A growing number of Haitian refugees, recruited by chicken plants in recent years, have moved to the city, too.

The large Catholic church where thousands pray in Spanish every Sunday just paid off its new $1.2 million building, thanks to donations from the congregation.

Eateries serving tacos and tamales are easier to find in some parts of the city than restaurants offering grits or fried catfish.

The relationships between residents — and the approaches local leaders take — have changed.

But it doesn’t take long to see that tensions are still simmering.

Stop by the basketball court where Mexican workers are shooting hoops, and you’ll hear how afraid they are that Donald Trump might be president, and what it was like a few years back when people couldn’t get water or electricity in their homes unless they could prove they were here legally.

Sit for a moment in the Little League stands nearby, and a woman flipping through a coupon book as she leans back in a lawn chair will tell you how immigrants should stop speaking Spanish and sucking benefits from the system.

Step into a shopping mall off the busy four-lane highway through town, and you’ll see immigrants searching for the right words in an English class as they talk with their teacher about what foods to eat on American holidays and how fast the cashiers speak at Walmart.

Cross the parking lot to visit the unemployment office, and you’ll hear some people say the influx of immigrants gave the region’s economy a boost, while others grumble it cost them their jobs.

‘There’s plenty of jobs’

Langlois runs her fingers through her hair as she scans the bulletin board at the unemployment office, looking for a lead.

Could she be a dishwasher or a welder? Will she go back to working at a chicken plant? Is there any other choice?

As an immigrant herself, Langlois says she’s had to follow strict rules and make sure her documents are in order when she applies for jobs. And she resents immigrants who came to the United States illegally for finding ways to skirt the system.

“It’s just not fair,” she says. “It’s like they’re getting special treatment.”

The CNN/KFF poll found that working-class whites were significantly more likely than other groups to say illegal immigration had directly affected them.

More than a quarter (27%) say their family has been negatively affected by undocumented immigrants taking jobs in their community, and among this group, 8 in 10 want the government to deport all undocumented immigrants.

The trend is even stronger in the South. Via: KITV


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