Consequences of Alabama immigration law set in

Alabama, Perez, immigration
The Perez family of Alabama
CBS News

Nowhere is illegal immigration a more pressing issue than Alabama. In September, the state began enforcing the toughest law in the nation. It requires schools to verify the citizenship of students and lets police arrest people who don't have identification.

CBS News correspondent Chip Reid reports that when 15-year-old Jose Perez says goodbye to his mother and family each morning before heading off to school, he asks himself an agonizing question.

"Is this the last time I see them? Is this it? And I can never really come to terms with that," Perez said.

What has Perez so frightened is the section of Alabama's tough new immigration law that authorizes police to jail -- without bail -- anyone suspected of being in the U.S. illegally, and to hand them over to immigration authorities.

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The Perez family came from Mexico illegally 13 years ago. They work hard and pay taxes, but now live in fear of being separated.

Adelina Perez said she spends a lot of time crying, "because it's not fair."

While Alabama State Senator Gerald Dial said he voted for the bill because he doesn't "support having illegal people here," he admits there have been some unintended consequences.

For example, there is the requirement that schools determine whether each student is here legally, a provision that's been temporarily blocked by a federal court.

"School teachers and administrators are not policemen, they need to be teaching," Dial said.

In Tuscaloosa, at least 66 people, most of them U.S. citizens, have been jailed for driving without a license. Prior to the law, most would have received a citation.

The law's supporters say illegal immigrants cost Alabama a quarter billion dollars a year on education and social services.

Jean Deason, a real estate agent outside Birmingham, doesn't want another penny of her tax dollars spent on illegal immigrants.

"Life's not always a bed of roses. They knew when they came here illegally that they were taking a risk. One of those risks is the fact that they may be separated. Now accept your risk and go on with your life but don't ask me to support you in what you've done illegally," Deason said.

Adelina Perez said she considered fleeing Alabama with her family after the law was passed. Not anymore.

"I think ok, we are here for a better life. We are going to fight, fight to stay here," Adelina Perez said.

They are fighting to stay in a state where many want them to leave.

  • Chip-Reid_bio_140x100_bw.jpg
    Chip Reid

    Chip Reid is CBS News' national correspondent.