Nativist Rumblings in Alabama

By: Daniel Nardini

At this point Arizona is the only state that has passed anti-immigrant legislation aimed at not only the undocumented but also at Latinos. A number of other states—with Republican majorities—have tried to do the same thing. So far such attempts have failed. More moderate voices realize that if they do the same their state will be subject to tourist boycotts, federal court lawsuits, and extremely bad publicity. This does not mean that more extremist politicians will stop. As I write this, an attempt is being made to pass anti-immigrant legislation in the Alabama state legislature.

House Bill (HB) 56, just recently passed by the Alabama House of Representatives, will require local and state police to check on the immigration status of all suspects stopped in traffic violations as well as for major crimes. It will also require employers to use the E-Verify system put out by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Further, anyone who “knowingly” provides “shelter” for an undocumented person will face prison. This is aimed at landlords who provide rental housing for undocumented, or families with undocumented family members. This legislation is now before the Alabama State Senate.

To put it mildly the Latino community in Alabama is alarmed by this legislation. They know who it is aimed against, and they know that such legislation will racially profile Latinos. This has happened in Arizona, and Latinos know that this legislation is being used to scare Latinos to leave Alabama. The legislation has three goals. First, it will attack the most vulnerable people—the undocumented and Latinos. Second, the legislation will be part of a “state solidarity” with Arizona in attacking the federal government. This second point is important. The more states that do exactly what Arizona did the greater that the sheer weight of such change will influence the federal government itself. Finally, these extremists will force a change in federal immigration policy to be even more strict and extremist as well as force a change in the U.S. Constitution.

Alabama is not the only state where such extreme legislation is passing muster. Georgia and South Carolina’s house of representatives have also passed similar Arizona-style legislation. If these three states do succeed in passing legislation like Arizona’s, this will indeed complicate the federal government’s court case against Arizona. But then this is the intent—to weaken U.S. President Barack Obama and the U.S. Department of Justice’s lawsuit against Arizona. The extremists realize that if they cannot successfully fight on the federal level then they will take it through the states. And the more states they can win the stronger their case to make sure every state has state immigration laws in contradiction of federal law to complicate the fight against the federal government. This is why it is important to fight the extremists tooth and nail in the states as well as on the federal level. The whole thing is becoming one very mean-spirited and dirty game of chess.

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