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Protecting All of Alabama

Molly Lauterback,
Immigrants' Rights Project
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July 8, 2011

Jane* is a single mother with three children. She’s lived in Birmingham, Alabama, for over a decade, and works hard to provide a stable home for her kids. Jane is a responsible provider and resident of her community; she is also a plaintiff in the lawsuit we just filed against the state of Alabama.

The recent passage of Alabama House Bill 56, seeks to punish people like Jane who are present in the state without documents. As Rep. Micky Hammon, one of the sponsors of H.B. 56, explained, the purpose of the bill is to “discourage illegal immigrants from coming to Alabama and prevent those that are already here from putting down roots.” H.B. 56 invites police to racially profile people during traffic stops by authorizing immigration investigations on “reasonable suspicion” that someone is in the United States illegally. The law puts officers in the position of relying on stereotypes about what an “illegal immigrant” looks or sounds like.

Alabama’s new law targets “illegal aliens,” but the truth is that many Alabamians will be caught up in the consequences of its unconstitutional provisions. Jane is one such example. Jane is now cooperating with federal officials who are conducting a criminal investigation, and because of this, the Department of Homeland Security is aware that she is an undocumented immigrant. But because of her ongoing cooperation, the government has decided not to deport Jane. She is now in the process of applying for a visa so she can stay in the country lawfully. In Alabama, however, Jane is considered just another undocumented Latina immigrant. And with H.B. 56 in effect, Jane is fearful that she will be subject to detention and interrogation by Alabama law enforcement.

Jane is also nervous because under this law, allows schools to report students and their parents who are presumed to be “unlawfully present” to the federal government. Her fear that her children may not be able to enroll in school is so strong that she is contemplating home-schooling. And if forced to home-school, Jane would not be able to work and won’t be able to support her family.

For these reasons and others, Jane has signed on as a plaintiff in our fight to challenge H.B. 56. Our class-action lawsuit, which was filed in federal district court today on behalf of civil rights, social justice, labor and faith-based organizations, as well as individuals who would be subject to civil rights violations, charges that Alabama’s new law is not just unconstitutional, but that it also targets people who cannot prove their lawful status to the satisfaction of an Alabama police officer.

We are challenging Alabama’s extreme law and every other Arizona-inspired anti-immigrant law to defend the rights of all Americans. And federal courts have blocked the most egregious provisions of these laws from taking effect in every state where legal challenges have been filed.

Our country was founded on sacred principles of equality and justice for all, and the ACLU will continue to work to ensure that these fundamental rights are protected and upheld.


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