Civil Rights Groups Deplore Signing of Alabama Anti-Immigrant Bill
June 16, 2011 - Posted by Avril Lighty
Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley signed into law last week an anti-immigrant bill that goes even further than Arizona’s S.B. 1070, which encouraged racial profiling by requiring law enforcement officers to stop, question, detain, and arrest anyone that they have a "reasonable suspicion" to believe is undocumented.
House Bill 56 includes Arizona’s “reasonable suspicion” clause and takes it a step further by authorizing the Alabama Department of Homeland Security to hire and maintain its own immigration police force. H.B. 56 even turns Alabama schools into immigration agents by requiring them to verify the immigration status of students and report it to the state, and bars the undocumented from seeking higher education in Alabama. It also interferes with their ability to rent housing, earn a living, and enter into contracts, and prohibits transporting or “harboring” any undocumented immigrant while instituting stiff penalties for anyone who breaks this law.
“House Bill 56 is designed to do nothing more than terrorize the state’s Latino community,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “It will keep children out of school and destroy families and businesses. It will strip Latino workers of their humanity under the law and essentially turns them into workers with zero rights. The only possible end result of H.B. 56 becoming law is a permanent underclass in Alabama that would be driven into the shadows of society.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center, the National Immigration Law Center, and the American Civil Liberties Union have announced that they will challenge the law in federal court. In October, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton upheld key parts of a class action lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Arizona's anti-immigrant law brought by a coalition of civil rights groups on behalf of labor, domestic violence, day laborer, human services, and social justice organizations.
“The passage of Arizona copycat racial profiling law makes one point abundantly transparent— these laws are much more about irresponsible political calculation than about anything resembling sound policy-making,” said Clarissa Martinez of the National Council of La Raza. “Governor Bentley and Alabama legislators who voted for this copycat law have endorsed the most regressive, repressive, discriminatory law, seeking to turn the state machinery against children, without regard to how it will trample the civil rights of fellow Alabamans or affect the Alabama community as a whole. It is reprehensible and incendiary, and will rightfully be challenged in the courts.”