We woke up this morning after an amazing “One Family, One Alabama” campaign launch against HB 56 yesterday, which cumulated in a massive rally at the 16th St Baptist Church with a crowd roughly 3,400 people strong. Among those present at the rally included U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) and the 10-member strong Congressional delegation; Alabama State Senator Bill Beasley (D-28), who is sponsor of the bill to repeal HB 56; Dolores Huerta, President and Co-Founder of the United Farm Workers; U.W. Clemon, the first African-American federal judge; Jose Antonio Castro, Program Director and radio personality for La Jefa Radio; and many other faith, labor, civil rights, and community leaders.
As the Birmingham News reported:
“The racially and ethnically diverse crowd was enthusiastic, occasionally breaking into the chant ‘Who is Alabama? We are Alabama’ in English and Spanish. A call for applause from people coming from different cities in Alabama showed participation from across the state.”
The day started with a 2 PM press conference with 11 members of Congress, followed by a hearing which featured members of the community who testified to how HB 56 has affected their lives and others in their community. Mary Bauer, Legal Director of the Southern Poverty Law Center said, in her testimony, “HB56 has devastated the immigrant community in Alabama. It would be hard for me to overstate the human tragedy that has been unleashed upon Alabama by HB56.”
Others recounted stories from their communities. One woman reported that her neighbor had been stopped in daylight for not having her lights on after it rained. Another for supposedly not making a complete stop. “If you get stopped for suspicion of drunk-driving and refuse to take a breathalyzer test, you are automatically booked for drunk driving and once you are arrested, the police will tell the family the person will be deported.” she said. Angie Baylon, an ESL teacher in Birmingham public schools, narrated the effects of the law on her students. “I watch as one student must put all household bills and payments in his name. Besides taking over bills, he handles transportation for his siblings and parents,” she narrates. “And now he seeks legal ways to adopt his siblings. He feels responsible for everyone else in their family.”
Full testimony can be found here, on the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice’s website. These stories are well worth the read, and will be lifted up on our blog in the coming days.
While Alabamians were rallying later that evening, a number of groups were hosting a solidarity vigil in Washington, DC, in Lafayette Square, in front of White House. Jobs With Justice, American Civil Liberties Union of the Nation’s Capital (ALCU-NCA), National Day Laborer Organizing Network, Rights Working Group, National Council of La Raza, the Asian American Justice Center, New York Immigration Coalition, National Immigration Forum, South Asian Americans Leading Together encouraged supporters to wear white and “bring positive messages of family and unity.”
Thanks to all in Alabama who came out to support ACIJ’s “One Family, One Alabama” campaign, and to others in the country, supporting the people of Alabama and figthing the fight against anti-immigrant legislation like HB 56.