On June 1, 2011, Alabama HB 56 was signed in to law by Gov. Robert Bentley, changing the way immigrants are treated in Alabama. As a result, many prospective international students across the globe scratched Auburn University off of their lists of potential schools to attend in the United States. Future engineers, pharmacists and veterinarians, star students from all corners of the world, will learn at our rival institutions and one day claim them as their alma mater.
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While there have been no reports on the Auburn campus of any students or faculty being deported because of the law, it makes the average student think a little bit when they see foreign students walking around campus. “I had a feeling that my Spanish teacher could have been deported, so I thought about that a lot when I first heard about the bill,” said Auburn student Ryan Forbus recently. The real question for Auburn is whether or not luring foreign students is feasible anymore. Even people who are in this state legally have claimed they feel pressured to leave or even feel unwelcome at times.
Several automobile manufacturers including Honda and Mercedes-Benz call Alabama home, as do a large number of executives from their home countries. These plants have employed thousands of Alabamians for the better part of the last twenty years. One has to imagine that if this bill were passed in 1990, these companies would have chosen states that exhibit more tolerance to foreigners. Alabama simply cannot afford to lose the business of these major economic players to neighboring states.
“I think the idea of immigration restriction as a matter of law is problematic,” says history professor Dr. Jennifer Brooks of Auburn University. “The country is built on immigrants.”
Brooks echoes many of the sentiments of detractors of the bill. These people against the bill feel it is an infringement on their basic human rights to move freely from place to place, as civilization has done for its entire existence. For centuries, Alabama residents have migrated to this land bringing with them their own cultural heritage and diversity. To stop this growth would be devastating to the long-term rich cultural context of Alabama society as we know it.