Human Rights Group Gets It Partly Right On Alabama Law

By Felicia Persaud

News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. Dec. 16, 2011: International rights group, Human Rights Watch, is the latest organization to slam the Jim Crow-like Alabama immigration law, and rightfully so. But like the U.S. Justice Department, HRW seems to be afraid to call the Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer Citizen and Protection Act or HB 56 for what it really is – racial profiling at its worst.

There is no denying the law is constitutionally a violation of the civil rights of any minority and immigrant national in the U.S., legal or illegal.

And HRW should say that. However, I do agree with the organization’s call for a repeal of HB 56 as was done in a 52-page report issued on Dec. 13th and titled, “No Way to Live: Alabama’s Immigrant Law.”

The group argues rightfully that Alabama’s new immigrant act denies unauthorized immigrants and their families, including U.S. citizen children, their basic rights and threatens their access to everyday necessities and equal protection of the law.

Under the Beason-Hammon Act, unauthorized immigrants are prohibited from entering into “business transactions” with the state. An unauthorized immigrant who tries to do so is committing a Class C felony, punishable by 1 to 10 years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines. As a result, state and local agencies have declared that unauthorized immigrants cannot sign up for water and other utilities, live in the mobile homes they own, or renew licenses for their own small businesses.

“Many of the unauthorized immigrants we met and their families are deeply attached to the state,” said Grace Meng, researcher for the US Program at Human Rights Watch and author of the report. “Their children are obviously affected, but we also met a teacher who fought back tears as she described her students’ fears, a minister who lost 75 percent of his congregation, and a Latino permanent resident who was stopped by a state trooper for no reason except ethnicity.”

The group agrees with advocates that the law infringes on the rights of children, and potentially thousands of minority citizens and legal residents and that everyone is entitled to fundamental human rights by virtue of their humanity.

Most of the unauthorized immigrants Human Rights Watch interviewed have lived in the US for at least 10 years, and many have US citizen children.

“Over and over in Alabama, we heard immigrants assert their humanity and declare, ‘Legal or illegal, I’m human,’” Meng said. “Alabama should recognize the humanity and fundamental rights of all the state’s residents and immediately repeal the Beason-Hammon Act.”

Now it’s time to also address the Jim Crow like aspect of this law and not be afraid to call a spade a spade. It is undoubtedly racism at its worst and should urgently be slapped down. The U.S. Supreme Court should also agree to hear arguments against immigration laws instituted randomly by states and not simply the Arizona law; for such copy cat rules are starting to wreck havoc on our very humane society.

The writer is founder of NewsAmericasNow, CaribPR Wire and Hard Beat Communications.