Obama's Illegal-immigrant Crackdown: Implications for Hispanics

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That's true for Lulu Alvarez, a legal Mexican immigrant who works at a poultry plant. Suddenly, she says, people here "think all Hispanics are the same, and they treat everybody the same way, as though we're all in the country illegally."

Several years ago, Collinsville resident Mickey Williams wrote to the local paper about how illegal Hispanic migrants were depressing wages, which hurts American workers in the area. But he also rents apartments to Hispanic families. A day after a judge upheld most of the Alabama law, one of his apartments was empty of people, but still full of their belongings.

"I have such mixed emotions, but at the end of the day, I think [prosecutions and crackdowns] are not the right thing to do," says Mr. Williams. "It's a terrible price to pay for trying to do better for yourself and for your kids."

Despite the record deportation numbers and skyrocketing Hispanic prison population, the Obama administration still faces criticism from conservatives who say it's attempting to pave a way toward amnesty for many illegal immigrants. Nevertheless, the new prosecutorial priorities could create an uncomfortable legacy for the Obama administration.

"It's pretty clear that this was not foreseeable ... that there would be such a large percentage [of Hispanics] in federal prison," says Professor Denno. "It's not a success for people who are incarcerated, and it's not a success for the future of the country."

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