(BIRMINGHAM, Ala.) -- What is widely considered the toughest anti-immigration law in America went into effect in Alabama Thursday, a crackdown so severe that some have described it as the Arizona law on steroids.
The law, which was approved by the state legislature and is widely backed by voters, allows police to check for papers and detain undocumented residents without bail. It also mandates that public schools share with authorities the citizenship status of all newly enrolled students.
"We have the strongest immigration law in this country," said. Gov. Robert Bentley.
Across Alabama on Thursday demonstrators were furious.
"To me it says that our government promotes racism," said one protester.
"We have to move. We have to leave everything," a woman said tearfully.
At Center Point High School in Birmingham, principal Van Phillips says several students came to him Thursday morning worried he was going to kick them out.
"I'm not INS!" He said. "It's not my job to police who's legal, who's illegal."
"I couldn't sleep last night," said Alejandro, a student at Center Point. "This morning I was worried the cops would be here waiting for me and send me away."
Educators say they've been put in a tough spot and that under the law all they plan to do is report information.
"We are turning no one away, no one is being asked to withdraw," said Jefferson County School Superintendent Phil Hammonds.
ABC News spoke with one parent who pulled her nephew out of school Thursday. She is undocumented and said they're moving to California on Friday.
"We don't want to move, but this thing we can do nothing about it," she said. "We're people, we're humans."
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