Last September, a federal court judge allowed a sweeping immigration crackdown law to take effect. That legislation, which was signed into law by Governor Bentley in June of 2011, quickly progressed into a unrelenting nightmare for immigrant families living in the state. Many in America had no idea what was happening, and many still don’t.
The stories out of Alabama range from sad to scary to completely horrific. Mary Bauer, the legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, reported that a mother in northern Alabama was told she could not attend a book fair at her daughter’s school without an Alabama state ID or driver’s license. Another father said that his U.S. citizen daughter came home crying from school after other students told her she did not belong there and needed to go back to Mexico—a country she had never even seen. One woman who was nine months pregnant was too afraid to go to a hospital in Alabama to give birth, and her husband was trying to decide whether to risk having the baby at home or try to make it to Florida.
In a matter of two months, a civil rights abuse hotline in Alabama — set up by the Southern Poverty Law Center, National Immigration Law Center (NILC), American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), MALDEF, Latino Justice, Asian Law Caucus – had fielded over 4,000 calls. That number, as you might have already guessed, is far beyond that now. And, although some provisions of the law have seen been temporarily enjoined by the court, the damage to families and whole communities continues.
As an immigrant advocate, mother of two young children, and as an American, I am outraged at the way the Alabama government has decided to treat a group of people who only came here to work and take care of their families. It seems that Hollywood director Chris Weitz is too. He has credits to his name like Twilight: New Moon, About a Boy, and A Better Life, and his latest project is about what’s going on in Alabama.
“A Better Life” took on the plight of immigrants through a touching story of an undocumented father, played by Demian Bichir (who has been nominated this year for an Academy Award for the role), in East L.A. who works long, hard hours trying to make a “A Better Life” for his young son. Weitz’s latest project is a series of four short videos outlining the situation in Alabama after passage of it’s anti-immigrant law, each one taking on a different theme and asking the question: Is This Alabama? (also the name of the series).
One of the videos features a Latina sitting with her daughter, afraid to show her face to the camera.
“We’re just asking God to keep our family together,” the woman says, through tears.
When asked why he got involved in exposing the reality behind Alabama’s ugly immigration law, Weitz told The Guardian: “I found having made ‘A Better Life’ that I couldn’t walk away from this. The more I knew about the subject [of immigration], the harder it was to turn my back on it. I think I’m in this for the long haul now.”
The other three Alabama shorts (including one featuring a teacher saddened by the disappearance of “her kids” from school, juxtaposed with an angry and ignorant man demanding that all “illegals” leave) can be found here:
They’re all worth a watch. It’s hard to believe this is happening in the United States in 2012, but it is. The more attention we can bring to the horrific situation in Alabama, the more chance we have to change it.