As one in a string of recent anti-immigrant laws in several US states, Alabama’s HB 56 has been decried as the harshest anti-immigrant law passed and enacted in our nation’s recent history. This law will increase instances of racial profiling and civil rights abuses since Alabamian law enforcement officers are required to ask anyone they suspect of being an undocumented immigrant for proof of citizenship papers. In addition, illegal immigrants cannot enter into a contract between private parties (i.e. sign a lease) or a contract between private individuals and the state (i.e. receive state-provided utilities). Legal challenges from the Department of Justice and several legal advocacy groups have led to judges’ blocking several of the law’s provisions from being enforced, including a provision that would criminalize harboring or transporting illegal immigrants. Most recently, the Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit has the section of the law that would require schools to identify and record the citizenship statuses of their K-12 students. The court has also temporarily suspended the provision that makes it a state crime for individuals to travel without documentation of citizenship. While this was a victory for many in Alabama, these provisions had already led to the detention of some immigrants and many other harsh, restrictive regulations from HB 56 continue to be implemented in the state.
After hearing accounts from advocacy and legal organizations in Alabama, we have learned of many upheavals both inside and outside of immigrant communities. For some, this law has prevented them from going to work or attending school because of the risks of travelling without papers. For others, it has even pushed their families to flee the state in the middle of the night. Additionally, the impact of this law on the state’s economy has already been felt. Farms are missing employees, many of whom are undocumented, and these jobs do not seem to have widely appealed to the Americans who were supposed to take them. Activists are fighting this law and offering services to affected populations through advocacy campaigns, grassroots organizing, public education clinics and messaging to sway public opinion with economic and civil rights based arguments.
As a Foundation concerned with human rights in the US, we urge all of our readers to learn more about HB 56, the local ramifications of its implementation and the legal battles that surround it. The ACLU, an Overbrook grantee, has described its efforts against HB 56 and its assessment of the situation in Alabama at http://www.aclu.org/crisis-alabama-immigration-law-causes-chaos. Major news sources have also provided in-depth coverage of the progression of this discriminatory law.