Just when it seemed Alabama had left its dark past of segregation behind, its legislature passed one of the nation’s strictest anti-immigration bills, H.B. 56, taking the state back in time 50 years.
During the civil rights struggles, Birmingham, Alabama, was the epicenter of the civil rights movement’s struggles for equality. It was known for having one of the most violent, aggressive, and pro-segregation police forces and one of most hostile education systems in the nation. Today, in a setting that is all too familiar, H.B. 56 reestablishes the educational racial barriers Alabama supposedly put in its past.
Gov. Robert Bentley (R) signed H.B. 56 into law on June 9, 2011, an anti-immigration bill even harsher than Arizona’s infamous S.B. 1070. Like S.B. 1070, the bill allows police to arrest anyone suspected of being an illegal immigrant even if they’re stopped for a minimal traffic violation. The bill makes it a criminal offense in Alabama to rent a house or apartment to undocumented immigrants or to knowingly give an undocumented immigrant a ride. It also makes E-Verify, a faulty and expensive Internet-based verification mechanism, mandatory for employers.
But worst of all is that the law turns educators into immigration officials. Going even beyond Arizona, the law targets students and requires that schools collect information about the legal status of students and their parents. This law will lead inevitably to widespread racial profiling in education as in law enforcement.
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