Photo: Alabama Passes Extreme Anti-Immigrant Laws
Leaders from key civil rights organizations gathered on a national telephonic press conference this afternoon to denounce Alabama’s extreme anti-immigrant law as a radical departure from American values and to announce a court challenge. The legislation Governor Bentley signed this morning is notable for its cruelty. It turns Alabama school officials into immigration agents as they are now required by the new law to verify the immigration status of students and report them to the state. It contains the same problematic “reasonable suspicion” provisions as Arizona’s SB 1070. It allows police to arrest and detain a person when there is a “reasonable suspicion” the person is in the country illegally. It forces landlords to verify the immigration status of their tenants and prohibits all people from transporting or “harboring” of any undocumented immigrant. It institutes stiff penalties for anyone, not just the undocumented, who breaks the law. This is of special concern to mixed status families – children could be arrested for transporting their undocumented parents, for example.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, the National Immigration Law Center, and the American Civil Liberties Union announced that they will be challenging the radical new law in court. “This law will set back years of progress Alabama has made on civil rights and prove economically devastating for Alabama,” said Mary Bauer, Legal Director of the Southern Poverty Law Center. “This is why the Southern Poverty Law Center and other civil rights groups will challenge this racist and harmful unconstitutional law in court.”
Civil rights leaders were particularly appalled by the new law’s overbearing infringement on the civil rights of Alabamans. “The legislation signed into law this morning by Governor Robert Bentley is so oppressive that even Bull Connor himself would be impressed,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “House Bill 56 is designed to do nothing more than terrorize the state’s Latino community. It will keep children out of school and destroy families and businesses. It will strip Latino workers of their humanity under the law and essentially turns them into workers with zero rights. The only possible end result of H.B. 56 becoming law is a permanent underclass in Alabama that would be driven into the shadows of society.”
“This is another attack on the civil rights of Latinos,” said Clarissa Martinez of the National Council of La Raza. “We are disappointed that Alabama voted in similar legislation as Arizona’s SB 1070. Such laws especially when they are directed against children are an attack on access to education that will have negative consequences for everyone in Alabama.”
“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 Cecilia Wang of the American Civil Liberties Union. “It blocks the schoolhouse doors to children, will result in people being turned away when they try to rent a home, and places burdens on people of color at the voting booth. By signing this bill into law, Gov. Bentley has codified official discrimination in the State of Alabama. We will take action to keep this law from going into effect to ensure that the civil rights and liberties of all Alabamans are protected.”
The new law makes it very likely that Alabama, like Utah, Georgia, and Arizona will be sued in an effort to block the legislation from taking effect. Like other states that have passed extreme anti-immigrant legislation Alabama will have to deal with the likely severe damage to the state’s reputation, and enormous damage to the state’s agriculture and tourism industries. The leaders on today’s call agreed that Alabama’s new law stands out for being the most severe and punitive measure passed anywhere.