It seems the new Ku Klux Klan members in Alabama are the state’s lawmakers and their target is no longer Blacks, but undocumented migrants who have called the state home and helped keep the economic engines of small businesses running.
A new state immigration law, H.B. 56, is one of the toughest in the nation to date. Signed by Gov. Robert Bentley earlier this month and seemingly fashioned after Arizona’s infamous S.B. 1070, the law now makes hiring, harboring or transporting undocumented immigrants in the state illegal. It allows police to arrest anyone suspected of being an illegal immigrant if the person is stopped for some other reason. In addition, it criminalizes dealing with falsified identification documents and requires businesses to verify employees’ immigration status through the federal E-Verify system-a federal law that is already on the books, so why the need to restate it here?
H.B. 56, which goes into effect on Sept. 1, will also require schools to determine the immigration status of every student upon enrollment. Lawmakers insist the requirement will help keep track of just how much money the state is spending to educate the children of undocumented immigrants.
Really? So what about the regressive sales tax and local property taxes that immigrants, whether legal or not, pay in the state?
The new law, much like those from the cross-burning Jim Crow era, targets another minority section of the state’s society: undocumented immigrants, who are largely brown.
But the one bright spot in all of this is that unlike the past history of this state, many Alabama Christians are taking offence at the law.
An interfaith prayer walk, planned for July 30 in Montgomery, will pass by Martin Luther King Jr.’s first church on the way to the steps of Alabama’s capitol. Additionally, more than 100 United Methodist ministers have signed an open letter to the governor criticizing the law.
This is an interesting development considering the history of the state. Its religious groups were never so quick to denounce Jim Crow laws. In fact, KKK members used to be part of the Bible-waving segment, which thought it was their Christian duty to get rid of Blacks from the state and keep them as second-class citizens. Alabama enacted 27 Jim Crow segregation laws between 1865 and 1965, including six each against miscegenation and desegregated schools.
Now its lawmakers are at it again-the KKK without the hood-by trying to go against federal rules and create Alabama’s own fearful “cross-burning” environment for immigrants, whose only crime is trying to make a better life for themselves and their children, much like the pilgrims in the past did.
This cannot be tolerated. The U.S. Justice Department must join with civil rights activists in suing the state to ensure the message is clear-that discrimination of any sort, whether against a U.S. national or foreign-born, will not be tolerated in 2011. The Jim Crow era is over-maybe lawmakers in Alabama need to be strongly reminded of this!
The writer is founder of NewsAmericasNow, CaribPR Wire and Hard Beat Communications.