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Alabama Law Dictates ‘Who to Be Friends With’

Sarah Seltzer writes for Alternet and other online publications and sends us this. Follow Sarah on Twitter.

As the AFL-CIO documented in a study, the situation for immigrants in Alabama has grown increasingly dire: A “humanitarian crisis” has resulted from a Draconian anti-immigration law, HB 56, one of the nation’s harshest.

The parallels between this law and the old Jim Crow laws (some call this new type of law “Juan Crow”) will be spotlighted in an upcoming reenactment of the 1965 Selma to Montgomery civil rights march next month. Sponsored by the National Action Network along with the AFL-CIO and other labor, civil and human rights organizations, the March 4-9 event will focus attention on recent attacks on voting rights, workers’ rights, education, and immigrants—all of which are modern-day assaults on civil rights.

This week, a high-profile Hollywood director, in collaboration with several nonprofits, lent his camera to the cause of immigrants in Alabama, creating a series of stirring and revelatory videos that ask: “Is This Alabama?” Chris Weitz is best known for directing the third Twilight installment and he recently traveled throughout the state and spoke with people to show the impact of the law and how citizens really feel about it.

This first mini-film, the “Two Faces of Alabama” depicts a teacher who is deeply concerned about the new law’s effect on her students, and a belligerent restaurant-goer who has the only scorn for immigrants. The teacher’s fears are real: The law’s enactment has left many classrooms empty.

In the second short film, clips of segregation-era George Wallace and Bull Connor are followed with those of an older Alabama man talking about how the law is dictating “who to be friends with” and noting that he’ll cry if his Latino neighbors are forced to leave. “We’re going backward instead of forward,” he says.

See two more short films at the Is This Alabama YouTube channel.

If comparing the situation now to segregation-era seems far-fetched, it’s not. Just before Valentine’s Day, it appears that some citizens protesting against HB 56 were let into the statehouse based on the color of their skin:

Alabamians from civil rights organizations, immigrant groups, faith communities, the labor movement, and other walks of life came out in force in Montgomery, carrying Valentine’s Day cards and signs professing messages of love for their home state. Their intention: to visit their legislators in the State House and ask them to reconsider a repeal of Alabama’s monstrous anti-immigrant law, HB 56…
Protestor Carole Edmonds, a dentist with a practice from Boaz, Alabama and her friend, both of whom are white, were permitted to visit the offices of their Senators but several Latino protesters were denied the same access. When Dr. Edmonds and her friend attempted to visit the same Senate offices a second time with several Latinos, they were told by security that while the white women could enter, while the Latinos who accompanied them could not. This was after Dr. Edmonds made it clear that they were all there for the same reason.

Unfortunately, instead of shying away from measures like Alabama’s, some other states are adopting similar ones.

Media projects like Weitz’s and the upcoming civil rights march in Alabama will aim turn the national spotlight towards the deep injustice of Alabama’s policy.

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