Alabama Brings Back Troubled Racial History With New Immigration Law
Alabama has joined other states in the Deep South on the immigration battleground, with its troubled racial history not far from the surface. The state signed the nation’s harshest immigration bill into law last week, with HB 56 containing almost every significant anti-immigrant provision that has been introduced in the past few years.
“This law is an outrageous throw-back to the pre-Civil Rights era, going beyond the discriminatory and unconstitutional police practices that we’ve seen in other states,” said Cecillia Wang, director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project.
Among the bill’s litany of punitive measures: imposing penalties on employers who hire undocumented immigrants, forcing public schools to check the immigration status of students and parents, allowing police to arrest anyone they suspect of entering the country without valid immigration documents, making it illegal to rent housing to an undocumented immigrants, barring undocumented immigrants from enrolling in or attending public colleges or universities and prohibiting them from applying for or soliciting work.
Alabama will join Georgia, Utah and Arizona in its anti-immigrant legislation targeting the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. Approximately 120,000 of them live in Alabama, according to the Pew Research Center.
The American Civil Liberties Union has already said it will sue to overturn the “draconian” law, as it did for the Arizona, Utah, Georgia and Indiana legislation. The ACLU says that the bill is likely to invite racial profiling and keep undocumented students from going to school for fear of being deported.
Fourteen Latin American countries filed an amicus curae brief to oppose Utah’s law that would also target undocumented workers in a U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City.
Portions of the Arizona bill were blocked by a federal judge after the ACLU and the Obama administration sued, including the section of the bill requiring police to check the immigration status of any individuals they suspect of being undocumented, and are expected to land in front of the Supreme Court.
When Alabama’s HB 56 was first introduced in March, hundreds of people rallied outside the State House to protest the legislation. “If the sponsors of these bill think that they’re going to be successful in displacing and running off the migrant community, they’ll see the birth of a vibrant, bold and beautiful human rights movement,” B. Loewe, spokesperson for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, told Campus Progress.
“What we saw in Arizona was CEOs writing letters to the Senate president saying ‘look, when you pass this style of laws, we get hurt by the consequences of the boycotts and the protests,’ ” Loewe said, and “states like Florida took notice of that and decided to turn away from the 1070[-like] laws.”
Anti-immigrant legislation introduced in Florida, along with California, Nevada and Texas, didn’t make it out of the legislature.
Alabama Rep. Micky Hammon, the Republican who sponsored the bill, called it a “jobs-creation bill for Americans.”
But opponents expect the opposite. The Southern Poverty Law Center said the bill was likely to push the state “into a costly trap.” Not only will it be very expensive to defend the law in federal court, argued the SPLC, but the state will lose” “millions more in lost tax revenue from Alabama businesses that will bear the brunt of boycotts of Alabama goods and services and lost sales to documented and undocumented immigrants who flee the state rather than deal with racial profiling and the state’s anti-immigrant climate.”
The United Farm Workers union has also warned that prices of fruits and vegetables may rise if companies are not able to employ low-wage workers, usually undocumented immigrants, for the harvest.
The new law will go into effect on Sept. 1, at the height of the farming season.
Yana Kunichoff is a staff writer for Campus Progress.
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