Word on the street is that the proposed revision for Alabama’s anti-immigrant law HB 56 is still a load of Juan Crow. Faith, legal, and advocacy leaders said as much on a press call today, offering up a scathing critique of the new HB 658 and saying that it amounts to a reform bill without the reform. HB 658 would double down on Alabama’s attempt to expel all undocumented immigrants from its borders and would actually increase the threat of racial profiling for countless Alabamians (even those born in the state). And even though Alabama Governor Bentley’s office has intimated that the revision would exempt religious organizations from provisions of HB 56 so that they could provide food, medical care, and humanitarian assistance to all those in need, HB 658 in fact does no such thing.
As Reverend Angie Wright, a pastor with Greater Birmingham Ministries said today:
As long as it is a crime for ANYONE to give a ride to a hungry person to get groceries or to feed them, to take a sick person to the clinic, or a family to worship, the concerns of the faith communities have not been met. It is deeply disturbing to me that, especially during Holy Week, legislative leaders have shown no remorse for the massive suffering caused by HB56. They propose even harsher penalties for Good Samaritans helping strangers in need, show no compassion for children and families hurt by this law, and show complete disregard for worldwide concerns about racial profiling in Alabama.
HB 45 came under global scrutiny last year when foreign executives from Mercedes Benz and Honda were arrested and detained by police in Alabama after they were caught without papers required under the state’s “show me your papers” provisions. HB 656 would go even further—it would require police to verify the immigration status not only of the drivers they pulled over, but all of their passengers too.
Bernard Simelton, President of the NAACP Alabama State Conference, spoke today about the complete impracticality of that idea:
HB56 cannot be fixed by drafting another mean spirited bill. HB 658 was supposedly designed to mitigate the damage HB 56 has caused, and to get the Justice Department to drop some of their opposition. We still believe this new bill will continue to lead to racial profiling. Any time you give law enforcement additional reasons to search and ask questions of individuals in a vehicle, that will lead to racial profiling. The only way to fix HB 56 is to repeal it and all its brothers, sisters, and cousins lurking out there that look like it.
In recent days, neighboring states like Mississippi have carefully considered the economic ramifications of laws like HB 56, and deliberately decided not to pass such laws in their own state. North Carolina, New Hampshire, and Georgia have also chosen not to pursue anti-immigrant legislation.
Yet with HB 658, Alabama seems determined to dig itself into a deeper hole. Rather than take steps that would repeal HB 56, the state legislature wants to take a step further and additionally target people who merely associate with undocumented immigrants.
Justin Cox, staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project, says that Alabama legislators “should learn from their mistakes and repeal this hateful law”:
It has led to racial profiling and has sent the state back in time when it comes to civil rights. The ‘fixes’ proposed by Alabama’s legislature are inadequate and would actually make the current law even more punitive in several respects.
For a recording of today’s call, click here.