Our VoiceImmigration

Alabama Turns Its Back on Progress

Jill Garvey • Oct 05, 2011

Alabama’s track record of etching racist laws into America’s historical record continued last week.

In a ruling that now makes Alabama the home of the harshest anti-immigrant laws  in the country, a district judge upheld provisions of H.B. 56. According to a report by Center for American Progress, the following measures are now in effect as a result of the ruling:

  • Alabama Schools must check the immigration status of every student and parent and report that information to the state.
  • Schools are authorized to report students and parents they believe to be undocumented to the federal government.
  • Police officers must ask anyone they stop who they think might be undocumented to prove their immigration status on the spot.
  • It is now a state crime to be undocumented.
  • Some undocumented immigrants must be indefinitely detained.

This law goes beyond Arizona SB 1070 and harks back to a time when racial profiling was not only common, it was practiced with zeal, and Jim Crow laws in the South held in place a system of second class citizenship that persists today.

Over a century - from 1865 to 1965 - Alabama enacted 27 Jim Crow laws. Many of these laws made school and public officials complicit in enforcing measures that racially profiled and terrorized people of color. A few of those laws included:

  • Ministers and justices of the peace faced fines between $100 and $1,000 and could be imprisoned in the county jail for up to six months for performing marriages between whites and blacks.
  • White female nurses were prohibited from caring for black male patients.
  • It was unlawful for any sheriff or jailer “to confine in the same room or apartment of any jail or prison white and Negro prisoners.”

These laws, along with dozens of others, are now considered not just unconstitutional, but immoral. And despite the gains made by the Civil Right Movement, communities of color are still suffering from the oppressive state under which their parents, grandparents, and great grandparents lived. State-sanctioned racism isn’t time-stamped, it ripples forward through generations and into all sectors of society.

H.B. 56 will likely effect future generations in the same way. According to the Teaching Tolerance project:

Alabama’s new law—with provisions against hiring, harboring or transporting undocumented immigrants—is bad enough for adults. But it is potentially disastrous for kids. By requiring schools to determine the immigration status of every student at enrollment, the law makes it hard to tell the difference between educators and immigration officials.  It already has immigrant parents asking, “Should we keep our children out of school in September?”

It’s obvious that Alabama is sliding back to a shameful period in American history - a period that many people lost their lives and livelihoods to overcome. The question remains - will the rest of the country let Alabama get away with it?

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