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CBS Highlights 'Agonizing' Plight of Illegal Immigrants in Alabama

On Wednesday's CBS Evening News, correspondent Chip Reid filed a report which took a sympathetic look at a family of illegal immigrants in Alabama who fear enforcement of the state's new law against illegal immigration. Reid also highlighted aspects of the law that even supporters consider to be flaws that should be fixed.

The CBS correspondent began the report by focusing on the "agonizing" plight of a 15-year-old illegal immigrant who fears separation from his parents:


CHIP REID: 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:

JOSE PEREZ, ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT: Is this the last time I see them? Is this it? And I can never really come to terms with that.


The CBS correspondent continued:


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

After a clip of Perez's mother in tears, Reid then turned to an Alabama state senator who supported the law, but wishes to make changes so that people who are U.S. citizens face fewer inconveniences as the law is enforced. Reid:

But Alabama State Senator Gerald Dial says there have been some unintended consequences. For example, the requirement that schools determine whether each student is here legally, a provision that's been temporarily blocked by a federal court. ... 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.

After devoting a portion of the report to an Alabama resident who complained about the consequences of illegal immigration, the CBS correspondent concluded his report by returning to the family of illegal immigrants who were the subject of the piece's opening:


CHIP REID: Adelina Perez says she considered fleeing Alabama with her family after the law was passed. Not anymore.

ADELINA PEREZ: We are going to fight.

REID: You're going to fight?

ADELINA PEREZ: Fight to stay here.

REID: Fight to stay, in a state where many want them to leave.


Below is a complete transcript of the report from the Wednesday, November 23, CBS Evening News:

SCOTT PELLEY: Nowhere is illegal immigration a more pressing issue than in Alabama. In September, Alabama began enforcing the toughest law in the nation. As written it requires schools to verify the citizenship of students, and it lets police arrest people who don't have ID. We asked Chip Reid to see how enforcement of the law is going, and he starts tonight with one of those families that Newt Gingrich was talking about.

CHIP REID: 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:

JOSE PEREZ, ILLEGAL IMMIGRANT: Is this the last time I see them? Is this it? And I can never really come to terms with that.

REID: 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. The Perez family came from Mexico illegally 13 years ago. They work hard and pay taxes, but now live in fear of being separated. You spend a lot of time crying.

ADELINA PEREZ, MOTHER OF JOSE PEREZ: Yeah, because it's not fair.

STATE SENATOR GERALD DIAL (R-AL): I voted for the bill because I don't support having illegal people here.

REID: But Alabama State Senator Gerald Dial says there have been some unintended consequences. For example, the requirement that schools determine whether each student is here legally, a provision that's been temporarily blocked by a federal court.

DIAL: School teachers and administrators are not policemen. They need to be teaching.

REID: 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.

DIAL: That was just an oversight. So these oversights need to be fixed.

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

JEAN DEASON, ALABAMA REAL ESTATE AGENT: Life's not always a bed of roses.

REID: Jean Deason, a real estate agent outside Birmingham, doesn't want another penny of her tax dollars spent on illegal immigrants and wants the law enforced.

DEASON: They knew when they came here illegally that they were taking a risk. One of those risks is the fact 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.

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

ADELINA PEREZ: We are going to fight.

REID: You're going to fight?

ADELINA PEREZ: Fight to stay here.

REID: Fight to stay, in a state where many want them to leave. Chip Reid, CBS News, Birmingham.


- Brad Wilmouth is a news analyst at the Media Reseach Center