Civil Rights Violations in Alabama, Again?


The state that started the civil rights movement of the 1960’s has become involved in controversy once again. If some claim that immigration laws for those coming from Latin America aren’t enough, then they only need look at Alabama and even they will be horrified. Alabama’s immigration law utterly lacks any morality in dealing with the rights to all people, citizens or otherwise.

Unauthorized immigrants, no matter how long they have been living in the state, and all those of Hispanic descent (even if they are legal citizens) are facing the same discrimination that the black community once faced. The law, titled HB 56, prohibits illegal immigrants from all state business transactions which, in some cases, includes barring the immigrants from signing up for basic utilities, living in a mobile home (that they rightfully own) and renewing contracts for small businesses. The law goes on to declare that the police are allowed to stop any immigrant in traffic and require them to show their papers, dependent only on their ethnicity. It also used to require schools to check immigration status of its students, but thankfully that component has been temporarily blocked. However, the worst part of the law is that Good Samaritans looking to assist the immigrants (when no one else will) can be punished just as severely as the immigrants themselves for their actions.

This racist law isn’t just harmful to those it discriminates against, but it’s also harming the state economically. Due to the racial intolerance towards Hispanic immigrants, they are stuck either living in fear from the discrimination or forced to flee the state to find a more accepting place to reside. While illegal labor accounts for less than 5 percent of Alabama’s entire labor force, the loss of workers is still proving detrimental to Alabama’s economy, which is suffering already as it is. It’s not like the gap left by missing farm laborers and other low-wage immigrant employees is being filled by other out-of-work Alabamians, so there are few left to do this work. In poorer towns especially, where the economy is dependent on these low-wage workers and small business, the lack of a cheap workforce is hitting hard. Even those who support the law recognize the high economic toll that it is causing.

Like the Jim Crow laws of our past, Alabama’s immigration law determines worth by the color of one’s skin. Alabama is not known for its racial tolerance, and in the past was home to some of the most important figures of the civil rights movement. However, is this issue the same as before? Could another civil rights movement be stirring the same place where the first one began?

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. believed that “an unjust law, is not law at all” so if a law is not just then respect of it should not be given. Some form of immigration laws are needed in the United States, but HB 56 has taken it way to far making Alabama look like the enemy to all immigrants, whether legal or illegal. While there are major differences between this issue and that of the civil rights movement, mainly the fact that illegal immigrants chose to relocate but blacks were oppressed for hundreds of years, it cannot be denied that there is a correlation between the two.

Some Alabamians have begun to form non-violent protests to repeal the law, much as the how the civil rights movement of the 1960’s began. Immigrants don’t have to be legitimate citizens of the United States to have ties to their American communities, so therefore they deserve the same basic rights as any other human living within the state. And with that discrimination comes the discrimination of all persons of that ethnicity creating even more frustration and warrants a right for some form of protest. HB 56 is a fundamentally bad law, but even the smaller parts of it are abused giving it the same reputation as the segregation laws of the past, exactly what Martin Luther King Jr. was fighting against. So in simple terms, the Hispanics are the “new blacks” of Alabama.

Hispanic immigrants, no matter what their immigration status may be, deserve the same basic rights as any American citizen. They might be illegal, but they still play an important part in the community and economy of Alabama. My questions are; do you think that the ideas of Dr. King can be applied to this issue? They might only be a small percentage, but don’t they deserve to be treated fairly under the law? What do you think of the immigration law in Alabama; do you think it’s just? Do you think that this could be the civil rights movement of the 21st century?

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3 Comments on “Civil Rights Violations in Alabama, Again?”

  1. andgoldberg Says:

    The issue of illegal immigration has been an ongoing problem in the United States. It’s unrealistic to think that the problem will ever be solved but there are certain ways in which the government can lower the problem. I think that the law should be considered “unjust” simply because of the fact that authorities can ask any minority for documentation whenever just because of how they look. I think the government is approaching the issue to aggressively. Hispanics who are pulled over for speeding or arrested should be required to present documentation, but shouldn’t be required to in an everyday type of situation.

    This whole controversy is definitely not going to result in a civil rights movement. This is true because African Americans were discriminated against in relation to slavery, where they were forced to come to the US. In this situation, the hispanics are living in the United States illegally, not forced by white oppressors. It would be very difficult for the Hispanics to turn this into a civil rights movement when they shouldn’t be in the country in the first place. The illegal immigration issue is going to require a lot more effort and time before we figure out how to properly approach the problem.

  2. Michael Zanger Says:

    Immigration is an emotional topic for all Americans. Either you feel good or bad about it and it’s not the concept of immigration, because we don’t mind the Europeans and educated folk who enter our labor market. It’s about Latin American immigrants. In our past, America has absorbed immigrants into our system. Why? Because they’re consumers. They have generally created their own jobs (gardeners, house keepers, etc.) not taken the ones the lower-income population hold. I read that from a New York Times article, by the way. I’ll try to find it and will re-post it here.

    Another issue was local authorities forcing immigrants to present identification whenever asked. I believe by forcing all Americans toward obtaining identification is unconstitutional. It’s illegal to have Government issued identification card, and to ask for ID would assume that one holds a form of US Gov. issues identification.

  3. evanhw Says:

    I agree with the comment above, in that forcing someone to present their identification under any circumstance is unlawful and is our countries most exploited method of racial profiling. Unfortunately, with regards to illegal immigrants there is no stopping government officials from manipulating their equality, due to their lack of citizenship. Without fully completing establishing one’s citizenship as illegal immigrants, they are subject to basically anything that particular state is permissible to do. Especially in Alabama where racial tension is sadly part of their history and in some ways part of their culture.

    With this in mind, I can not equally compare Alabama’s immigration law to the Civil Rights Act for the sole reason that America has already established its equality of rights to all citizens. Although African Americans were restricted from equal rights, they had no chance to become full citizens regardless if they immigrated illegally or not. The important difference is that, now, everyone has the equal opportunity to become an American citizen and so the seemingly unfair laws against illegal immigration must be upheld to protect the authenticity of legal citizenships.

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