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Hands of Alabama: Working, Worrying, Waiting

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alabama pictureThis is the tenth column in a series on the Alabama anti-immigration law by Maribel Hastings, Senior Advisor with America’s Voice Education Fund:

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – How many undocumented immigrants in Alabama would meet the criteria set by new federal regulations to be “low priorities” for deportation if they were to be detained?

Every story we hear, every family drama, seems to describe cases that would fall under these regulations, which establish that immigration agents should prioritize the deportation of those who pose a real threat to public safety, not mothers and fathers who came to this country to devote themselves to work in various industries and create a better future for their families.

Despite this, Alabama law HB 56—even after a court ordered the state to temporarily stop enforcing parts of the law—keeps the immigrant community here in a state of anxiety. Even with the supposed prioritization of deportations, the community confronts the constant fear of being detained and deported under a law that the Obama Administration’s own Department of Justice is trying to get ruled unconstitutional. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told the House Judiciary Committee yesterday that her Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is not collaborating with Alabama’s authorities to implement the law, and is instead cooperating with the Department of Justice in its lawsuit to block it. How ironic.

Showing only their hands—the same hands that labor in jobs that are so important to the state’s economy and their families’ survival, the same hands that now caress the children they fear they’ll have to leave behind—these videos show several immigrants’ stories of how HB 56 has turned their lives upside down.

As we stand on the threshold of an election year and rumors of immigration reform bills have begun to swirl around Congress yet again, the only thing immigrants in Alabama and around the country are hoping for is to stop being exploited by politicians of every ideology and agenda. Their suffering is genuine. Their need is immediate. Their wait has been long.

As one undocumented father expressed his wish for politicians: “that they see what’s going on here in Alabama, that they listen to us now in our time of need…That they don’t forget that we’re human beings like they are.”