Immigration

Recent HB 56 Protests Connect Alabama’s Past & Future


Guest Blogger • Jan 20, 2012

by Arianna Hermosillo

In 2011, communities in Alabama faced a direct attack. All of House Bill 56 threatened to criminalize hard workers, dedicated students and committed community members across that state based not on their serious felony convictions, moral depravity or proven detrimental behavior—but on a busted immigration system they don’t control.

The detrimental effects of the parts of HB 56 that were implemented are still being witnessed and quantified. What is clear is that HB 56 has done little to deter the economic hardship and lawlessness its backers claim it targets. It has not advanced the cause of comprehensive reform of immigration policy nor has it offered a real means to create paths of legalization for persons wanting and deserving of living in this country free of unnecessary fear or shame.

What HB 56 has done is:

  • Led to an estimated 25 percent of construction workers leaving the state since the law’s implementation.
  • Scared children from attending school. There was an estimated 80 percent increase in Latino children absent on October 31st of 2011 compared to the same day in 2010.
  • Resulted in a federal government lawsuit against the state of Alabama because the legislation cuts in on federal authority over immigration policy.
  • Inconvenienced Alabama residents seeking standard services and the entities offering them, resulting in Alabama legislators to rethink the law’s stipulations.
  • Produced a shortage of farm labor, affecting farmers and the Alabama economy negatively
  • Instilled fear and isolated certain communities, and in some cases forcing people to flee the state.

House Bill 56, which among other provisions requires verification of one’s immigration status during routine law enforcement encounters based on nothing more than appearance, isn’t securing Alabama taxpayers and citizens. Alabama legislators should redirect their efforts from attacking the communities they represent and instead join the table to discuss effective and productive immigration policy for all.

In the midst of this attack, Alabama communities found that they weren’t alone. National and regional groups took initiative and heeded the call to stand by them. On a bright December afternoon, hundreds gathered outside of the state capitol in Montgomery to call for a repeal of the bill. Parents pushed baby carriages, children played and older family members rested.

Alabama Senator Bill Beasley stood before the crowd that day, swearing to repeal HB56. His words and the words of all that spoke that day rang above the crowd and just down the street to Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, Dr. King’s church from 1954 to 1960, a reminder of Alabama’s past—a past that should be remembered and learned from.

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Arianna is a journalist in the Chicagoland area. Her current activities have her producing media for several types of audience and most importantly, learning how to engage communities in a better and more constructive way.
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