This summer, Alabama passed one of the harshest anti-immigrant bills (HB 56) in the nation and the parallels between that law and the old South’s Jim Crow laws are “all too real,” says William Lucy, president of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU).
Lucy was part of an AFL-CIO-sponsored delegation of prominent African American labor leaders who traveled to Alabama last month to see firsthand the law’s devastating impacts on immigrant workers and their families. Today, the delegation released its report on its findings. The leaders, who have for years been deeply engaged in the struggle for human and civil rights—some for decades—write that they were shocked by what they found.
None of us expected to witness the humanitarian crisis we experienced—a crisis that hearkens Alabama back to the bleakest days of the state’s racial history. The parallels to Jim Crow were all too real, and the prejudice we heard about felt all too familiar.
The report sheds new light on the crisis Alabama immigrant families are facing as a result of HB 56. Many of those who went to Alabama will present the report to lawmakers on Capitol Hill tomorrow.
The law requires school officials to question students about their immigration status and that of their parents. Mothers told the delegation they fear they will be separated from their children and some undocumented parents are making arrangements with church members, friends and even strangers to care for their U.S.-born children in case the parents are deported.
I drop my children off for school, but I’m not sure if I will be around to pick them up.
The law allows police to stop and check the immigration status of people they suspect may be in the country illegally and restricts the rights of undocumented immigrants to the point where they are nearly ”non-persons” subject to a form of legal exile. HB 56 has generated—because of politicians’ outlandish and false claims about immigration—a near hysterical anti-immigrant atmosphere in the state.
For example, the report notes, Birmingham deli owner Steve Dubrinski, told the Birmingham News he was worried for his business because his workers—all Latinos and fully documented—were thinking of leaving the state.
“They are scared and I can’t blame them,” he told the paper, making clear he was speaking about his documented employees. That interview set off a firestorm. A local radio talk show called for a boycott of the deli, and Dubrinski received vitriolic hate e-mails.
Alabama teachers also told the delegation about the law’s impact in the classrooms where students are staying away put of fear of the new law. . Said Richard Franklin, president of the Birmingham AFT
This is a bad law…We need to invest in all our young people who seek an education, not find ways to prevent them from learning.
The delegation also heard from DREAM students, young people who were brought to this country at an early age, whom the report says “are American in every sense except on official paperwork.”
[Many] have become politically engaged in Alabama after the passage of HB 56 and have risked deportation, detention and family separation to organize their communities to advocate against the law. Their testimony was some of the most compelling and energizing we heard during our visit. They are a bold and brave group who we are certain will help change the law and get real reform at the national level.
Click here for the full report, “Crisis in Alabama: Investigating the Devastating Effects on HB 56.”