United States: Alabama Passes Country's Strictest Anti-Immigration Law

On September 29, 2011, the state of Alabama passed HB56, the United States’ strictest anti-immigration law, following in the footsteps of Arizona's already controversial S.B. 1070, which criminalized illegal migrant status.

The measure, passed by Federal Court Judge Sharon Blackburn of Birmingham, Alabama, allows law enforcement agents, both state and local, to arrest those they suspect of not carrying legal documents.  Moreover, even professors and educational authorities would be obligated to report the presence of undocumented students in their classrooms.

Marching against the HB56 Alabama anti-immigration law. Image by Flickr user SPROSS (CC BY-NC 2.0).

Marching against the HB56 Alabama anti-immigration law. Image by Flickr user SPROSS (CC BY-NC 2.0).

The state's governor, Republican Robert Bentley, hopes that other proposals are included to strengthen this law even further, such as prohibiting the housing or transporting of undocumented immigrants and preventing students without legal status from enrolling or studying in public universities.

In the event that these proposals are not incorporated in this law, the governor has promised he will appeal. As expected, President Obama's administration applied for a federal appeal to prevent the implementation of the anti-immigration law in the Eleventh Circuit, located in Atlanta.

Consequences becoming apparent

Amidst all of this, the HB56's consequences are becoming apparent. According to The San Francisco Chronicle, Latino students began disappearing from classrooms as a result of the court's decision.

According to official sources, a multitude of immigrant families took their children out of classes, fearing retaliation or possible arrests. Likewise, civil rights groups, agricultural owners and religious leaders have expressed their discontent before the measure, since many of them ensure that their duties will be hindered.

The blogosophere has unhesitantly reacted. In the “Re-think Immigration” section of the MATT Blog, Verónica Morales pointed out that the HB56 Law will have devastating effects on the communities that live in this state:

This law has the capacity to harm communities of every minority. It harms businesses of every kind by making it more difficult and expensive to hire new employees. It harms the whole education system- fear and intimidation do not provide a conducive learning environment and puts an extra burden upon school districts and administrators who are trying to teach. In other words this law harms the everyday life of all Alabamans.

On the other hand, a blog on Al.com had a post in which an anonymous user expressed their disagreement with teachers who presumably fail to report students:

When I see and hear a teacher say, “It is not our job to police our students to determine if they are here legally, we are educators”; or a superintendent say “our primary concern is the education of our students and thus we will not interfere with their presence, legal or otherwise, so they need not worry,” I am dumbfounded.

Maureen Costello from the blog Teaching Tolerance calls the Alabama anti-immigration law “The New Jim Crow” in reference to the law that segregated African Americans and whites from the late 19th century to the mid-20th century:

Alabama’s new law—with provisions against hiring, harboring or transporting undocumented immigrants—is bad enough for adults; but it is potentially disastrous for kids….On the surface, Alabama’s H.B. 56 appears to be fashioned after Arizona’s infamous S.B. 1070 law. But the real model wasn’t so far away. Take a good look. This law was inspired by something a lot closer to home: Jim Crow.

The Foundry's Cully Stinson and Hans von Spakovsky celebrate the law's passage:

There is more good news today in the fight against illegal immigration at the state level (and bad news for the Obama Administration’s policy against enforcement of immigration laws)… The Administration can appeal Blackburn’s ruling, but major portions of Alabama’s new law are now in effect.

On Facebook there are groups that, in addition to opposing the law, provide general information, such as “I am against Alabama's Immigration Law HB 56.” By contrast, another group, “I Support Alabama (Against Illegal Immigration),” celebrates HB56's passage.

Latino Rebels (@latinorebels) implied that the jobs that Latinos carry out are those that the average American does not want to do:

So basically Latino families are fleeing #alabama so will American workers now work at poultry farms? These are jobs being “stolen”

Others like ResistTyranny (@ResistTyranny) noted that the law is accomplishing its mission:

Alabama's tough #immigration law is having EXACTLY the intended effect – illegals are LEAVING: http://is.gd/Q1oYlh #NoAmnesty


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