If you are not from the south or ever visited, what you need to know is that religion plays an important, prominent role in everyone’s lives, so I would like to begin this post with a few bible versus that I think are appropriate for this issue and I think should be kept in mind for those on both sides of this issue.
Psalms 82:3-4 — Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”
Leviticus 19:33-34 — “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.
Matthew 25:35 — For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.
Exodus 22:21 — “You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.
My reaction to the immigration law recently enacted in Alabama, speaking as an Alabamian, is one of shame. I acknowledge that we do have major flaws in our immigration policy. I also acknowledge that our federal government has not done an adequate job in enforcing our laws. But I do not agree that this law, which is more severe than the one passed in Arizona is the answer.
The man who is responsible for writing this law is Kris Kobach (he is currently the Secretary of State of Kansas). In an interview with Politico Kobach said he writes legal briefs on nights and weekends away from his day job and that he drafted the Alabama law, he said, on his laptop while sitting in a “turkey blind” near Gardiner, Kansas. “Some politicians golf in their spare time,” he said. “I spend mine defending American sovereignty.”
Some of the provisions in this law include:
- It will require police officers to determine the citizenship and immigration status in any lawful “stop, detention or arrest” if there is a “reasonable suspicion” they are illegal.
- The law forbids undocumented immigrants from receiving state or local aid.
- Bars immigrants from public schools and universities.
- Criminalizes hiring or renting to undocumented aliens.
- Prohibits employers from firing an employee who is a legal resident if an illegal one is on the payroll.
One of the provisions I have the biggest problem with involves children. It requires schools to determine the immigration status of every student at enrollment making it hard to tell the difference between educators and immigration officials. Cristina Costantini wrote about this provision.
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.H.B. 56, which goes into effect on Sept. 1, justifies the requirement as a way to keep track of just how much money the state is spending to educate the children of undocumented immigrants.
Never mind that immigrants—both legal and illegal—support schools by paying Alabama’s regressive sales tax (10 percent here in Montgomery, including on food) and local property taxes. Some will argue that children brought here illegally should not get a public education.
But the Supreme Court ruled otherwise almost 30 years ago, in Plyler v. Doe. In 1982, the court ruled that Texas schools could not deny enrollment to the children of undocumented immigrants. The decision found that children—even those here illegally—had 14th Amendment protections, should not be punished for the actions of their parents, and were safe from discrimination in the absence of substantial state interests to the contrary.
In Ms. Costantini’s column, she found some startling facts.
According to a 2009 study, more Americans think that Hispanics are the targets of discrimination in American society than say the same about any other major racial or ethnic group. According to Mark Hugo Lopez, the associate director of the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research organization that seeks to improve understanding of the U.S. Hispanic population, the PHC’s studies found that, prior to 2009, African Americans were perceived to be the group most discriminated against.
Lopez also said that on average, Latinos are thinking about discrimination and immigration as bigger issues for their community than they did just a few years ago. In 2010, 61 percent of Latinos believed that discrimination against Hispanics is a “major problem,” up from 54 percent in 2007. And in 2010, when asked to state the most important factor leading to discrimination, a “plurality of 36 percent cited immigration status as most important, up from a minority of 23 percent who said the same in 2007,” reported Lopez.
In an interview with a local paper, Gilberto Esquivel, a member of the Riverside Human Relations Commission, said that the 50 percent increase in hate crimes against Latinos in California in 2010 was directly tied to the passage of the S.B. 1070 immigration law in Arizona. In Esquivel’s county alone, the FBI documented 21 hate crimes in 2010, up from 12 in 2009.
Esquivel believes “anti-Latino and anti-immigrant remarks became more numerous and hateful on conservative talk radio, in newspaper letters to editors and on the Internet.”
“The hate is there,” Esquivel said. “[S.B. 1070] gives it legitimacy.”
We shouldn’t forget Alabama’s civil rights history and we need to know our history to avoid making the same mistakes.