In October, Juan Martinez’s Tortilleria Daisy business in Russellville was struggling as the initial fear surrounding the state’s immigration law set in.
An estimated 1,000 Hispanics fled Franklin County, according to Mayor Troy Oliver, and the majority of those who stayed remained in their homes, afraid to venture out even for groceries.
A few weeks after U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn largely upheld House Bill 56 in September, Martinez said sales at Tortilleria Daisy had fallen by at least 50 percent.
“My business has been losing a lot of money,” Martinez said in October. “We already feel the difference — there are no people around.”
But today, after some of the harsher points of the immigration law have been revised or are being considered for repeal, Tortilleria Daisy is prospering. The store is upgrading from its Marion Street facility to a larger, more accessible space at 125 N. Jackson Ave.
Martinez said in addition to selling groceries and homemade corn tortillas at its new site, Tortilleria Daisy will feature a restaurant, which should be ready to serve customers June 1.
“For three or four months, I saw a drop in business, but now it’s getting better,” Martinez said. “Five months ago, business was very down, but we know it’s getting better and better.”
The Rev. Charles Dale, who serves as an advisor to North Alabama Hispanics Coalition for Equal Rights, said despite the fact that the initial panic and fear surrounding the immigration law has mostly died down, there is much work to be done before equality is reached.
Many who oppose the immigration law, including coalition members and the Southern Poverty Law Center, said the only way to correct the law is to repeal it.
“As a matter of fact, we have a bus that’s going to be going down to Montgomery on Sunday for a march to protest against the (law),” Dale said. “We have a feeling that this is going to have another impact like the first impact (in September), when nobody understood what was going on or what was going to happen.
“Hispanics are going to stay or they’re going to leave. I think that after (the revised law) has come out and we can get some understanding of it, it’s going to have a great effect.”
Still, Oliver said the revisions to the law, paired with rumors being debunked about what Russellville police will and will not do, have allowed Hispanic residents to reach a reasonable level of calm, despite the law not having been repealed.
“I have a really good relationship with the Hispanic community. They’ll come and meet with me,” Oliver said. “They know that my whole belief in dealing with them and with anyone else ... is guided by (the Bible).
“We’re going to enforce the law, but we’re not going to racially profile and we’re not going to abuse people in enforcing the law. Our police department has done quite well at that, because they know the position that I take on it.”
Hannah Mask can be reached at 256-740-5728 or hannah.mask@TimesDaily.com.