Alabama and the Immigrant Rights Struggle

April 18, 2014

The Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama (¡HICA!) is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to the social, civic and economic integration of Hispanic families and individuals in Alabama. ¡HICA! engages and empowers Alabama’s Hispanic community and its numerous cultures as an economic and civic integrator, social resource connector, and statewide educator. For more information contact us at (205) 942-5505 or info@hispanicinterest.org.

During 2011 the state of Alabama enacted the most draconian anti-immigrant law in the nation—HB56. The law was part of a wave of xenophobia that spread across the country throughout 2010 which resulted in many states enacting anti-immigrant laws, starting with Arizona’s SB1070. However, Alabama went out of its way to dwarf SB1070 by including harsh provisions such as requiring public schools from K-12 to verify the status of their students. Alabama’s troubled past was beginning to catch up to it as Jim Crow was reincarnated into Juan Crow.

One of the purposes of the law was to have undocumented immigrants live so miserably that they’d “self-deport” thus ridding the state of tax dollars being wasted. However, the law left a lot of crops to rot in the fields, broken families and communities full of fear. Crimes would go unreported because immigrants feared their status could potentially lead to deportation even if they were only reporting crime.

The minds behind the law however did not intend for it to mobilize and empower those that were supposed to be criminalized, uprooted and be ridden of by it. In the spirit of the Civil Rights movement and the struggle for justice many immigrants and allies began organizing and resisting the effects of the law. “Know your rights” workshops were held across the state, letter writing campaigns targeting representatives were enacted among many other activities. Most important of all, people began losing fear and started asserting their humanities.

Currently, there is a nationwide movement to enact federal immigration reform. This would address many of the issues that are caused by a broken system such as family separations and states enacting their own draconian laws. Immigration would benefit families with mixed statuses, economic development and make our nation highly competitive. Representative Spencer Bachus (R) has come out in support of comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship. This is encouraging as it demonstrates that people from across the aisle can understand the importance of reform. We will continue to call, write, organize and tell our stories and fight until we no longer have to live in fear. We ask you to walk alongside us during this important moment in our nation’s history.   

Now that HB56 has been crippled by the courts and an out court settlement, energies are focused on enacting federal immigration reform and stopping the separation  of families across the nation and Alabama is and will be at the forefront of the immigrant rights struggle.

 

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