Latino Students Withdraw From Alabama Schools After Immigration Law Goes Into Effect

(Dave Martin/AP Photo)

ABC News’ Olivia Katrandjian reports:

Scores of immigrant families have withdrawn their children from Alabama public schools, according to state education officials, after a court ruling upheld the state’s new anti-immigration law.

The law, which was approved by the state legislature and is widely backed by voters, allows police to check for papers and detain undocumented residents without bail. It also mandates that public schools share with authorities the citizenship status of all newly enrolled students.

The law went into effect Thursday.

In Montgomery County, more than 200 Latino students were absent Thursday, according to The Associated Press, and in Albertville, 35 students withdrew in one day.

In Huntsville, one of Alabama’s largest cities, 14 percent of Latino students did not show up for school on Thursday, and 8 percent were absent on Friday.

“My dad said that we are going to Mexico and we are going to have our own room, our own house, but I feel bad too because I’m going to miss my friends and my best teacher,” said Dayana Coria, a student at Huntsville’s McDonnell Elementary School, according to ABC News affiliate WAAY TV.

There’s “no firm data yet, but several students have related to their teachers that they may be moving soon,” George Harper, who works at the public school in Russellville, Ala., told the AP.

Joe Ribera, who runs Mi Pueblo supermarket in Birmingham, said a lot of people have been buying bus tickets to leave the state.

“Maybe 35 tickets a day and normally we sell two, three, four,” he said.

Vianey Garcia, an illegal immigrant, said her family is being forced to leave the state for fear of being deported.

“We have to move. We have to leave everything,” Garcia said. “We can’t take anything because I’m afraid they can stop us and say why are you moving?”

Local and state officials, in an effort to keep students of immigrant families in school, insist that the state is only trying to compile statistics, not arrest students or parents, as privacy rights don’t allow schools to identify undocumented students by name. Under the new law, only new students are required to prove their citizenship.

“In the case of this law, our students do not have anything to fear,” Huntsville schools superintendent Casey Wardynski said Thursday on a Spanish-language television show.