Alabama to Mississippi: It Happened To Us

Affiliate: ACLU of Alabama
March 21, 2012 3:29 pm

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ACLU of Alabama
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Effects of Alabama’s Anti-immigrant Law- HB 56 on Communities of Faith, Businesses, and US Citizens Should Serve as Cautionary Tale to Other States

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MONTGOMERY – On a press call today, religious and business leaders joined local leaders and affected individuals to discuss the variety of ways in which Alabamians have been affected by HB 56, Alabama’s discriminatory anti-immigrant law. Although several major sections of the law have been blocked by the 11th Circuit Court, other provisions like the famous “show me your papers” provision remain in effect. The Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice as well as members from every sector of society are calling on state legislators to repeal the law.

Olivia Turner, executive director, ACLU of Alabama, and steering committee member, Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice said, “Alabama’s HB 56 is the most draconian and discriminatory law in the country and it continues to affect Alabamians every-day lives as well as the states’ economy. The law must be repealed. Other states considering an anti-immigrant “show me your papers” law should learn from our mistakes.”

Auburn contractor Wayne Kimberly who has been directly affected by HB56, commented “Our legislators are so out of touch with Alabama’s true work force. Heaven forbid the day comes when they have to mow their own yard, only then might they catch a clue about what a mistake HB56 is. Alabamians are not going to fill the vacuum left in our work place for labor intensive jobs. That was proven by Governor Bentley’s Work Alabama program. This bill just underlines the stigma of Alabama being the number one state in the Union for intolerance and racial profiling – they are not just proving that here in the United States but to the entire world.”

Despite extensive coverage of the political, economic and social consequences of Alabama’s HB 56, several states continue considering legislation that will lead them down this dangerous path. Last Wednesday, members of the Mississippi House of Representatives passed their own anti-immigrant “papers please” law – House Bill 488.

Pastor Ron Higey, Birmingham International Church, added “From a Christian faith perspective I cannot comfortably explain why we would treat others this way – harshly and punitively. As Christians – as people of faith, we are called to a higher standard of how we live with and treat others. For these reasons I call on upon Christians and people of faith to stand against this law and call their legislators and voice their objections and concerns.”

Economists and business leaders have noted that Alabama’s HB 56 is costing the state billions of dollars a year. The human toll however, is unquantifiable. Laws like HB 56 affect not only the immigrant community but the society as whole. Carmen Vélez, a U.S. Citizen who was initially denied automobile registration explained, “I never thought people wouldn’t know that Puerto Rico was a part of the United States but there it was in front of me, the ignorance and the humiliation of being asked for extra proof of citizenship because I’m Latina. The Alabama legislature created and passed HB 56 without thinking how it would affect Alabamians. I’m a U.S. citizen, I’m an Alabamian, yet HB 56 has ensured people doubt my every move. “

For Mississippi and all other states that might consider passing an anti-immigrant “show me your papers” laws, this should be a lesson. The consequences will be dramatic. What has happened in Alabama should serve as a cautionary tale for all other states considering this type of legislation.

Justin Cox, ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project attorney concluded, “It’s quite clear that HB56 is not just affecting its intended target of undocumented immigrants but also US children and anyone who might look a little different. These laws give people the idea that they’re now free to discriminate against Latinos or even perhaps that they are required to discriminate against Latinos in certain circumstances. Mississippi is the only state in the country that is considering passing a bill like HB 56. All other states in the country have decided it’s not what they want. The intended consequences of HB 56 have been terrible, and the unintended consequences have been very hard to predict. That’s the message we’re trying to get across here to the Legislature in Mississippi.”

The Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice is a network of individuals and organizations which seek to provide a united voice dedicated to ensuring the social, legal and civic rights of all immigrants in Alabama. ACIJ’s members work to promote justice for all of Alabama’s immigrants. Please visit

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