Alabama on my mind: anti-immigrant legislation leads to humanitarian crisis

In Alabama, recently passed House Bill 56 (HB 56) requires local and state law enforcement to check the status of any person of whom they have “reasonable suspicion” of being undocumented, in a remix of Arizona’s unconstitutional SB 1070. The Alabama law also requires schools to check the immigration status of all new students.

U.S. District Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn first issued a temporary injunction in August to give her more time to wade through the complex legal arguments in the case, and the ruling came on her last day of review. Her ruling kept many elements of the law, including the immigration check of students, but she temporarily enjoined others.

So, some AL families are pulling their children out of school. Many Alabama workers afraid to show up to their jobs and some folks are fleeing the state altogether.

This is particularly devastating to the state as food rots in the fields, unharvested. And rebuilding efforts after the devastating tornado that hit Tuscaloosa have slowed or halted. Alabama Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan calls the legislation “a pretty big overreach” and openly wondered, “How are we going to rebuild Tuscaloosa without roofers and construction workers.”

From the NYTimes:

Critics of the law, particularly farmers, contractors and home builders, say the measure has already been devastating, leaving rotting crops in fields and critical shortages of labor. They say that even fully documented Hispanic workers are leaving, an assessment that seems to be borne out in interviews here. The legal status of family members is often mixed — children are often American-born citizens — but the decision whether to stay rests on the weakest link.

So what can we do? A few things to do, right now:

1. Last Thursday, Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) introduced the End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA) of 2011. If passed, this bill would prohibit the use of profiling based on race, religion, ethnicity and national origin by any federal, state, local or Indian tribal law enforcement agency. You could email your Senator and tell them to pass the End Racial Profiling Act.

2. Make some (Facebook) noise. Full disclosure, I work for Breakthrough, and we’re the ones hosting this FB event. Visibility and public outrage all the way, folks.

3. Stay updated. Follow #HB56 and #CrisisAL on Twitter.

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