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Protest in Montgomery Against New Alabama Anti-Immigrant Law, HB 658

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Immigration reform activists and supporters from all over Alabama converged on the state Capitol in Montgomery to protest the passage of HB 658 over the weekend, rallying together in a mega-march led by the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice.

HB 658 became law last week when Alabama Governor Robert Bentley caved into anti-immigrant legislators and signed the bill, after initially refusing to endorse it and saying that he had reservations which he wanted legislators to address in a special legislative session.  The new law makes Alabama’s current anti-immigrant policy, HB 56—already the worst anti-immigrant law in the country—much worse: among other things, it requires the state “to post a quarterly list of the names of any undocumented alien who appears in court for a violation of state law, regardless of whether they were convicted” and allows police to detain all undocumented persons pulled over in a vehicle, even when they are not driving.

As NAACP Alabama State Conference president Benard Simelton told the Montgomery Advertiser this weekend:

It’s about judging people on the color of their skin instead of the content of their heart. This is not the kind of law we want in Alabama, this is not who we are. We are one family, one Alabama marching together for justice.

The Advertiser noted that since the law has already passed, the Montgomery protest was more about awareness and calling on activists to make their voices, frustrations, and pleas heard.  Since the legislature has adjourned for the year already, additional changes to the state’s anti-immigrant policies are, for the time being, not possible.

As state Senator Hank Sanders (D-Selma) told the crowd during the rally:

 We are fighting for freedom, and the heat can’t stop us, the Legislature can’t stop us, the governor can’t stop us, nothing will stop us,” he said. “If they come for you this week, they will come for us next week. We must unite to fight.

The odds are against us, but the odds are always against us. In the 1960s when we didn’t have the right to vote … the odds were greatly against us, but we fought anyway. One side had everything — the laws, the guns and gunmen, the buildings and jobs, banks and money, elected officials, media, everything.

And the other side had very little. But we took not defeat … and we united, and we won. And we will win again in spite of the odds.