December 15, 2017

Our Town - Part Two

So many people in Albertville, AL wondered what it cost them in taxes when thousands of undocumented immigrants moved to their town. One woman drove our host Ira Glass to the grocery store to watch a random Latina mom buy some milk with government assistance, to try to prove her point. So what’d all the newcomers really cost? And what was their effect on crime, schools, and politics? 

This two-part series won a 2019 duPont-Columbia Award.

Photograph by Sara Bentham, courtesy of the Gadsden Times

More in this Series

Act One

Christmas Lights and Fender Benders

In the early years, when immigrants first arrived in Albertville, the things that bothered the locals weren’t the things you usually hear about when people talk about immigration. Not jobs or wages or crime. It was small stuff. Neighbor-to-neighbor stuff. (19 minutes)

Act Two

The March

Latino residents decided to organize a peaceful march in support of a path to legal status, and their white neighbors were shocked when 5,000 people poured into the streets. (3 minutes)

Act Three


Suddenly realizing just how many Latinos had moved to town, longtime residents jumped into action, fueled by a wave of national and statewide anti-immigration fever. Then in 2011, Alabama adopted the most extreme anti-immigrant law in the country. (19 minutes)

Act Four

Let’s Do the Numbers

One of the things we were excited to investigate when we went to Alabama was to answer the question at the heart of the immigration debate: what does it cost taxpayers when we let in millions of immigrants, documented and undocumented? In Albertville, how much was it? We asked economist Kim Rueben and her colleague Erin Huffer to run the numbers. (6 minutes)

Act Five


In 2012, the fever broke, and the Albertville city council stopped targeting Latino residents. The mayor says he and the council are taking a cue from the public schools. During the years the city council was picking fights with the city’s Latino population, right across the street, at the offices of the Albertville City Schools, they were taking the exact opposite approach: trying to integrate them into the community. And they did an exceptionally competent job of it. (10 minutes)