published Monday, December 12th, 2011

Alabama says no children taken

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama’s governor and the head of the state’s child welfare agency say the state’s tough new immigration law has not been used to take children away from their illegal immigrant parents despite the earlier predictions and fears of some immigrants.

Shortly after the law took effect, many illegal immigrants signed documents allowing friends, relatives and others to take care of their children if they were arrested or deported.

But Gov. Robert Bentley and Department of Human Resources director Nancy Buckner said last week that they know of no incidents where children have been taken because of the immigration law. Buckner and Bentley were asked about whether the law would be used to put children under state control following a news conference to discuss the success the state has had in finding families for foster children.

“It’s not happening,” Buckner said.

She said DHR was exempted from the provisions of the bill, passed by the Alabama Legislature earlier this year, and can’t be used to help the state enforce the law.

Buckner said DHR is continuing its responsibility of taking care of children whose parents have been arrested or are unable or unfit to take care of their children.

But she said department records show no greater number of Hispanic children in DHR custody than before passage of the new law.

Alabama’s law, regarded by many on both sides of the issue as the toughest in the U.S., was passed by the Republican-controlled legislature this year and signed by Bentley. A federal judge blocked some parts of the law, but allowed key provisions to stand — including a provision that allows police to hold suspected illegal immigrants without bond. In those cases, Buckner said DHR will be called to take care of any children. But she said DHR officials are called in all such cases involving children and not just when the parents are immigrants.

The governor said he has not heard of any cases where the state had been asked to take custody of children because of the immigration law.

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