By Felicia Persaud
News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. July 15, 2011: It seems the new Ku Klux Klan members in Alabama are the state’s lawmakers and its target – no longer blacks – but undocumented migrants who have called the state home and kept the economic engines of small businesses running.
A new immigration law in the state, 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 and 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 September 1, will also require schools to determine the immigration status of every student at enrollment, with lawmakers insisting 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.
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 the cross-burning Jim Crow era, is targeting another minority section of the state’s society – undocumented immigrants who are largely brown.
But the one bright spot in all 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 30th in Montgomery will pass Martin Luther King Jr.’s first church on the way to the steps of Alabama’s Capitol. And more than 100 United Methodist ministers have signed an open letter to the governor criticizing the law.
This is an interesting development, since looking at the history of the state; its religious groups were never so quick to denounce Jim Crow laws. In fact, KKK members were part of the Bible waving segment that thought it was their Christian duty to get rid of blacks from the state or to continue to 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 it’s lawmakers are at it again – KKK without the hood – 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 them and their children, much like the pilgrims of 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.