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?