MUST LISTEN: This American Life’s “Alien Experiment”

By Joshua Witchger 1-30-2012
Old radio, adobe wall. Image via Wylio
Old radio, adobe wall. Image via Wylio

There are approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants in U.S., and for years addressing this issue has come in two forms: deportation or citizenship. But recently, there’s a third option on the table: self-deportation. This approach, which involves the implementation of laws and restrictions, essentially tries to make life so difficult for undocumented immigrants that they’ll want to flee the country, saving the U.S. money and time.

This weekend, WBEZ’s This American Life featured a detailed documentary on Alabama’s new immigration laws, which take this third approach in dealing with undocumented people. Reporter Jack Hitt visited the state and spoke with a variety of people: those on the top who helped write and pass the sweeping HB56 legislation, and those who are the most vulnerable to its laws -- the undocumented --who are feeling its effects in many ways.

During this 35-minute audio story, Hitt walks through many aspects of the immigration bill and introduces real stories of people interacting with it — from Scott Beason, a Republican senator who was the primary sponsor for the bill last season, to Latino families pulling their kids out of school, quitting their jobs, and remaining safe in their isolated neighborhoods.

Hitt demonstrates how this is not only a huge issue for the state, but also for the church. A woman shares that people at her congregation are suspect when passing the peace, some won’t even shake hands. But again, this is what HB56 is about: making life uncomfortable to the point that the undocumented people will leave because it’s easier to flee than to stay.

Majority whip, Gerald Dial, who helped forward HB56, is a Christian, and wants to tweak the law to include a Good Samaritan clause. He doesn’t think that helping undocumented immigrants should be against the law.


“Once you’ve amended the bill do you think Jesus would vote for it?” Hitt asks.
After a little pause, and some fumbling words, Dial responds “No, probably not.”

Listen to the full episode "Reap What You Sow” on This American Life.

Joshua Witchger is an online assistant at Sojourners. Follow him at Hail fellow well met.


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