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Alabama “Papers, Please” Law Drags State Reputation Back to Civil Rights Struggle

by Pili Tobar on 11/18/2011 at 9:44am

martin luther kingThe controversy continues over the Alabama anti-immigration law, as leaders report on additional damage to the state’s reputation, economy, and efforts to move on from its Civil Rights era legacy:

Martin Luther King III and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka Author Speak Out About the Consequences and Connotations of AL Anti-Immigration LawWriting on CNN.com, the leaders note, “It is one of the painful ironies of our time that in the same season Martin Luther King Jr.’s memory is finally honored with a memorial in our nation’s capital, the state where he began to lead the civil rights movement is once more the center of an ugly conflict over racial injustice.  The passage of Alabama’s anti-immigrant legislation, HB 56, invokes inhumanity reminiscent of the Jim Crow South. And the police state it has created is equally cruel.  If the law stands, children will be denied admission to public schools if they can’t prove their citizenship, and schools will be turned into enforcement operations. Poor people of color will be ripped from their families if they are caught in public without their papers in order. Samaritans and people of conscience who employ, harbor or help undocumented workers will be severely punished.  Already, opportunistic corrections firms are standing by to pocket money off prejudice and terrified families are selling off their meager possessions and fleeing the state.  Our immigration system is broken, but our answer as a nation cannot be to terrorize and criminalize families. Our immigration policy must be consistent with our core values and our moral obligation to treat all people with dignity and respect.”

Republican State Senators Note Damage to Reputation, Admit Need to Change the Law:  Republican Senator Gerald Dial said, “There are things in the law we just didn’t see.  Every time I see a major news clip of dogs attacking protesters in Birmingham [from the civil rights era], even though we’re way beyond that, this bill drags us back into that hole.  It’s opened up a window that we didn’t need.  I’m a big enough guy to say I made a mistake and that I’ll do everything I can do to correct it.”

Direct Harm on Recruitment of International Business to AL:  Thomasville, Alabama Mayor Sheldon Day said the law is having a negative impact on his community’s ability to attract foreign business and investment.  Mayor Day said approximately 25 foreign companies have explored bringing business to the state in the past year and, “Up until a few months ago, nobody raised the immigration issue.”   However, as the Tuscaloosa News described, Mayor Day noted that “in the last few months, he said it’s brought up regularly because he believes competing states are mentioning it in their negotiations and trying to portray Alabama as unwelcoming to foreigners even though that is not the truth.  From the questions he gets from industrial prospects, he also suspects competing states are recounting stories from Alabama’s civil rights past.”  Said Mayor Day, “It’s bringing back old images from 40 or 50 year ago.”

Toll on Alabama’s Economy and Legal Alabamians:  As the Christian Science Monitor reported, “The Prof. Samuel Addy at the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Alabama recently predicted that HB 56 will reduce the Alabama economy by $40 million as income and spending by both illegal and legal Hispanic immigrants will decline.  What’s more, employers face troves of fresh paperwork and licensing requirements to comply with the law that they say will potentially hurt business.  Indeed, the driving force behind revising the law, Republicans say, is its impact on legal Alabamians.”

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