The future of Alabama’s anti-immigration law is becoming more clear – and the results aren’t good. On September 28, 2011, Judge Sharon Blackburn issued her latest ruling concerning the fate of House Bill 56. While Judge Blackburn put certain parts of the law on hold for now, other parts will be allowed to take effect. Included in these provisions are the parts allowing schools to gather citizenship information about their students, and the provision authorizing law enforcement to inquire about the immigration status of persons they encounter and to jail without bond those who cannot provide proof of status. These provisions will undoubtedly lead to the arrest and detention of persons who are lawfully present in the United States, but who do not have the proof with them at the time of questioning or who hold a status not recognized on the acceptable list of documents. In addition, the Alabama law allows citizens to sue the police if they do not believe the police are adequately enforcing the new law. Additionally, some of the parts of the law that continue to be blocked – such as the portions making it a crime for undocumented aliens to solicit work or for people to provide food and shelter to undocumented aliens – may still be allowed to take effect at a later time.
It is sad that Alabama, where more than 4% of the population is Latino, would choose to adopt such a draconian statute. It is important to remember that Judge Blackburn’s decision was based on the question of what parts of the law were within Alabama’s state power, not whether the law was a good idea. Provisions of the Alabama law that do not violate Federal law will likely be upheld, even if many people (or judges) disagree with the policy decisions behind them. The history of the Alabama law should serve as a warning that the time to act is now. Florida’s governor has already expressed his admiration for the Alabama law and his hopes that a similar law is enacted in the next General Assembly. Will Alabama’s future be Florida’s future?
Now is the time to get involved. Write to your representatives. Talk to your elected officials. Make it clear to them that Alabama’s mistakes do not have to be repeated in Florida, and that an Alabama-style law will hurt Florida’s economy and Florida’s people. If you live in Alabama, contact your representatives to urge the repeal of Alabama’s law.
Government in America belongs to the people. We ARE the people. It is time to make our voices heard.
Originally published in La Costa Latina, September 2011