Update, Oct. 14, 2:27PM: An appeals court has blocked certain provisions of the law.
It’s “very clear” that Alabama’s new anti-illegal immigration law is keeping children who are U.S. citizens out of school because their parents are scared about its impact, Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez told reporters Friday.
U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama Joyce Vance also said that federal officials were “hearing some concerns about vigilante enforcement of the law by private citizens.”
“I don’t want to overstate, we have heard folks expressing concern that this will take place” but haven’t heard any actual reports of such incidents, Vance said. “I never like to be behind crime, I’d like to be in front of it.”
“We always maintain awareness and alertness of potential hate crimes, so you know when we say ‘vigilanteism’ that really means the same thing as the traditional work that we do ensuring that the hate crimes laws in this country are fully enforced,” Vance said.
Perez said that they were reviewing some “very troubling data” from schools regarding absentee and dropout data since the law went into effect. He also said there were getting reports of increases in bullying in the wake of the law.
“It’s been a theme thus far in our review,” Perez said in a conference call. “Again kids model the behavior of adults… and there are certainly a number of disturbing reports. ‘You don’t belong here,’ ‘Go back where you came from.’”
DOJ’s Perez is in charge of the Civil Rights Division and is visiting Alabama to chat with community leaders, civil rights organizations and families affected by the new immigration law.
House Bill 56 forces police and various government officials to question an individual’s legal status if they have “reasonable suspicion” that a person is in the country illegally. As the New York Times reported, the law has already driven many illegal immigrants and Latino residents out of the Alabama.
Perez also said that officials were getting reports of illegal immigrants not going to the police if they were a victim of a crime because they were worried about getting arrested due to their legal status.
The Huffington Post’s Elise Foley reported that Perez and other DOJ officials made a surprise appearance at a forum in Birmingham on Thursday night, where they told attendees to report civil rights violations in wake of the law.
“I never thought I’d be hanging out with the FBI and the Department of Justice so much, but they’re on our side,” Birmingham community organizer Helen Rivas told the HuffPost.