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Congressional Delegation Comes to Alabama to Hear Stories Against HB 56

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The “One Family, One Alabama” campaign launch against HB 56 may have happened more than a week ago, but we wanted to go back today to re-recognize the fantastic Congressional delegation that came to Alabama on their own dime to investigate the excesses and extremes of the nation’s harshest immigration law.

Led by immigration reform champion Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-AL), the delegation included Reps. Terri A. Sewell (AL), Joe Baca (CA), Yvette D. Clarke (NY), Charlie Gonzalez (TX), Al Green (TX), Raul Grijalva (AZ), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX), Zoe Lofgren (CA), Grace Napolitano (CA), and Silvestre Reyes (TX).  Unusually large for an official Congressional fact-finding mission, the delegation expressed alarm at HB 56’s overreach and pledged to try and do what they could at the national level to roll back the law.

Even though Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) was unable to join the delegation in Alabama in person, he did show his support with this video message that was played during the Congressional hearing. Senator Reid has long been a champion of immigration reform, and was responsible for bringing the DREAM Act to the Senate floor as a standalone bill last December. Watch his video address to the people of Alabama:

HB 56 “creates racial profiling, and that is something we just don’t stand for in this country,” Reid said in the video. Mentioning the Obama administration’s lawsuit against HB 56, Reid vowed, “the U.S. Attorney General will lead this legal battle, but he’s going to have a lot of support from people like me.”

“It is rare that you get ten members of Congress at a hearing,” Rep. Gutierrez said at the beginning of the ad hoc Congressional hearing that afternoon.  “And that’s when we make it easy for them and hold the hearings in our Washington, DC offices.”  He thanked his colleagues for postponing their Thanksgiving plans to join him in Alabama, and explained that what he’d seen in Alabama when he visited earlier in the fall prompted him to come back with more people.

“What I saw here in Alabama was both inspiring and heartbreaking,” he said.  “Heartbreaking because the fear and intimidation of Latinos was powerful.  And inspiring because the people I met in Alabama said to me that ‘we have faced down intolerance and injustice before, and we are going to do it again.’”

Rep. Lofgren, who sits on the House Immigration Subcommittee, and Rep. Sewell, the delegation’s host in Alabama, also took turns making comments.

“For many years, America has had two signs at the border,” Rep. Lofgren noted.  “One says, ‘no trespassing,’ and the other says, ‘help wanted.’  As a consequence of our dysfunctional immigration system, we have many hardworking people who have been here for many years, who have contributed to our country, whose children are Americans, who are now afraid to be seen in public.  That’s not the America I know.”

Rep. Sewell agreed, and hoped that the delegation’s discoveries in Alabama might prompt federal action on immigration.

“It is my hope that today’s ad hoc hearings will be a big step toward highlighting the need for comprehensive federal immigration reform,” she said.  “We understand the frustrations of Alabamians and Americans across this nation.  But the solution is not a state by state approach.  We believe that immigration is a national problem and needs a federal response.  We will take what we hear today back to Washington as evidence of the continued need for federal comprehensive immigration reform.”