Part of the community - Immigrant families in Alabama

  • Tienda El Sol on Main Street in Albertville, Ala. The town of about 21,000 is 27.9% Latino according to the most recent census.
  • Detail of a painting at St. William Catholic church in Albertville, Ala. The congregation is almost entirely Latino.
  • Along the road from Boaz to Albertville, Ala. Driving became a major source of anxiety for undocumented immigrants after HB 56 passed, which required police to arrest any driver caught without a license and send their information to federal immigration authorities. The provision has since been scaled back by revisions to the law and court challenges.
  • Fruit trees at Hazelrig Orchards in Cleveland, Ala. The promise of steady work in agriculture has been a major draw for immigrants to the state over the last two decades.
  • Sunday school at the Capilla de la Santa Cruz in Albertville, Ala.
  • A worker at a chicken farm operated by Wayne Farms, one of the largest poultry producer in the U.S. in Asbury, Ala. The growing meatpacking industry is a major source of jobs in the region.
  • Inside a poultry farm operated by Wayne Farms in Asbury, Ala.
  • A Pentecostal church service on Main Street in Albertville that caters to the Latino community.
  • Books and rosary beads for sale at St. William Catholic church in Albertville, Ala.
  • A man drinks a Herbalife dietary supplement shake. Herbalife has found a niche market within the Latino community in Albertville. Several storefronts on Main Street have been turned into small restaurants that sell the brand's shakes and other dietary products.
  • A woman and baby after mass at the St. William Catholic church in Albertville, Ala. “A lot of good dependable families disappeared," Father Tim Pfander said, describing the panic after HB 56 passed. But things have since stabilized.
  • The end of the day at Albertville Middle. Statistics say the student body is 30% Latino, but teachers think its higher. Many students were taken out of school when Alabama passed HB 56 in 2011, the harshest state immigration law in the country and required that schools ask about students’ legal status.
  • Main Street in Albertville, Ala. The balloons were part of a celebration of the 40th anniversary of a Pentecostal church. The street features a mix of stores catering to both the state's Latino and white residents.
  • Service at a Pentecostal church on Main Street in Albertville that caters to Latino immigrants.
  • Window display in a store on Main Street in Albertville, Ala.
  • La Reyna, a local store selling clothes and other products to the Latino community in Albertville.
  • Inside window of a storefront on Main Street that sells Herbalife; shakes and other dietary products to their focused market, the Latino community.
  • A customer is served a shake at a small restaurant selling Herbalife dietary supplements.
  • Yuri Diaz, originally from Mexico plays with one of her four young children after mass as St. Williams Catholic church in Albertville.
  • Fallen plums at the Hazelrig Orchards in Cleveland, Ala.
  • Eliberto Gonzalez, says grace before a family meal, he is originally from Guatemala and lives with his wife who is from Mexico and their six kids in Asbury. Eliberto works and lives on a farm growing tomatoes and raising chickens. He found the job with the help of a former priest at the local Catholic church.
  • Dinner at the Tomas residence in Boaz. Mother, Sabina came to the U.S. from Guatemala with her sons to join her husband Moises when their sons Jorge was 12 and Junior was 9. They enrolled in school speaking no english and now are fluent. Sabina cleans houses for a living.
  • Detail of a wall of photos at the home of the Tomas family in Boaz, Ala.
  • Early morning at the home of Yuri Diaz as she wakes her children to get ready for school. Yuri is originally from Mexico but her children were born in Albertville.
  • Condensation on a window looking into the backyard of the home of a Mexican-American family in Albertville, Ala.



Alabama’s Hispanic population has more than doubled since 2000, faster rate of growth than any other state in America. In towns like Albertville, where thousands of immigrants from Mexico and Central America arrived seeking work in meatpacking and agriculture, the Latino community has come into conflict at times with older residents. Concern over their presence prompted the state to pass HB 56 in 2011, the toughest anti-immigration law in the country. Photographer Carolyn Drake chronicled daily life for Latino families in the area, who are still trying to put down roots even as the state remains ambivalent about their future.

For more on this story read MSNBC’s feature How America’s harshest immigration law failed by Benjy Sarlin.

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