Alabama’s Shame: HB 56 and the War on Immigrants
Alabama’s HB 56 is a self-inflicted wound—the product of short-sighted lawmakers unable to see beyond the most immediate political opportunity. Though the impact of similar anti-immigrant laws in Arizona and Georgia clearly foreshadowed its legal and economic fallout, HB 56 was passed with little regard for the hardships those states have experienced.
The result is a crisis that harkens back to the bleakest days of Alabama’s racial history. It is a crisis that could have been avoided—one that certainly must end now.
A family goes 40 days without running water because their “papers” are not in order.
A health clinic refuses to treat a young girl due to her immigration status. Days later, she undergoes emergency surgery.
A man brandishes a gun to day laborers, then refuses to pay for their work.
A Latina born and raised in the U.S. discovers she’s suddenly regarded with suspicion — even enduring taunts of “Go back to Mexico.”
These are just a few of the stories told by Latinos who are living under the cloud of Alabama’s newly enacted anti-immigrant law, HB 56.
Like the Arizona law it was modeled after, Alabama’s law grants police the authority to demand “papers” demonstrating citizenship or legal status during routine traffic stops. But it does much more.
In Alabama, where undocumented immigrants comprise just 2.5 percent of the population, lawmakers added a slew of cruel provisions designed to create a law that, in the words of a key sponsor, “attacks every aspect” of an undocumented immigrant’s life.
The result was the harshest anti-immigrant law in the nation—a law that virtually guarantees racial profiling, discrimination and harassment against all Latinos in Alabama. HB 56 attacks not only “every aspect” of an immigrant’s life in Alabama—but also basic human dignity and our most fundamental ideals as a nation.
The victims are mothers, fathers and children—often people working hard to overcome crushing poverty and build a brighter future against long odds. Thousands of children—many of them U.S. citizens who have every right to be here—are now living in fear of losing their parents and are afraid to go to school.