Fresh off their success calling out Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) and his longtime failure to support immigration reform, Cesar Vargas and the crew at DRM Capitol Group are now going after Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL). Teaming up with Alabama DREAMer Victor Palafox, Palafox and Vargas are taking to Sessions’ home state paper (the largest online and in print in Alabama) to remind the world the Sessions–the leader of the Gang of Hate on immigration–supported HB 56, Alabama’s self-deportation law. And now he’s trying to bring that failed strategy to the national immigration debate.
Inside the Beltway, immigration is the single most issue that has captured the bipartisan support of a deadlocked Congress. While the federal budget and the gun control debate each seem to be replete with heated politics, immigration has been a welcome civil debate.
Meanwhile, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Judiciary committee, has vowed to give the public and all senators an opportunity to be heard. Unfortunately, rather than trying to improve the bill, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., is making every effort to defeat a historic opportunity to finally modernize our outdated immigration system.
Immigration has deep roots in our lives. We both came from Mexico when we were very young, but we unquestionably consider the United States, and places like Birmingham, home. Whether it was facing gang violence or poverty, we both traveled to live a better life for our families and to enhance the character of our adopted country. And we have been given the chance to contribute to this country by working and paying taxes now that we have deferred action under the Department of Homeland Security’s new immigration policy.
Many undocumented immigrants have learned to call Alabama home for the vast majority of theirs lives, accepting the culture of Alabama, along with its Southern accent and history. But Alabama has also been the site of the most aggressive civil rights struggles. Today, we continue to struggle with civil rights in immigration reform, which is opposed by obstructionists like Jeff Sessions, the junior senator from Alabama.
No less than John Lewis, Congressman for Georgia’s 5th District, who barely survived having his skull fractured by police batons during the civil rights era, said that immigration is “the new civil rights battle.”
And now, Alabama has learned firsthand what an misguided immigration law can bring, and it is still learning. HB 56, Alabama anti-immigrant law, has been unsuccessful to the peril of its own farming industry as fruit rotted on the vine.
An analysis from the University of Alabama states that HB 56 could ultimately cost Alabama as much as $11 billion in economic output, as much as $264.5 million in tax revenue, and as many as 70,000 to 140,000 jobs.
Sessions supported HB 56. Now that Congress is taking up immigration, Sessions has no place bringing this failed approach into a productive discussion regarding the future of our families, economy, and the 11 million undocumented immigrants, some who call Alabama their only home.
It is in this context which the senator has been making his stand against the “new civil rights battle.” Recently, he has gone so far as to resort to obscure chapters in the Bible to claim that, since God was all right with the Israelites being chased from country to country, God should be all right with a border fence. This happens at a time when the largest religious organizations have increasingly been coming out for immigration, such as Latino-heavy Protestant and Catholic churches.
“We see that it is a major step forward in fixing an immigration system that everyone agrees is broken” said the Rev. Angie Wright of Greater Birmingham Ministries of the Gang of Eight’s recent proposal.
“Even if you pass laws today that appear to be effective, it doesn’t mean they’re going to be enforced. And we have in this administration, a failure to enforce. So that’s a big deal right now” said Sessions to the reverend. In addition to that being a poor argument, the Obama administration has been harsher on immigration enforcement than the Bush administration, deporting a record number of undocumented immigrants, so this is simply not true.
While the immigration debate rages on, there have been clear sides drawn. Sessions is appealing to the most extreme element within his audience. In the end, Sessions is on the wrong side of history because the people of the great state of Alabama will aim to preserve, not suppress, the liberties of our Constitution and the American Dream
Victor Palafox is co-founder of the Alabama immigrant Youth Leadership Initiative. Cesar Vargas is the Director of the DREAM Action Coalition. Email:media@DRMActioncoalition.com