What is Alabama Department of Education Trying to Hide?

By: Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Commentary Almost a year has passed since the Alabama state legislature passed HB (House Bill) 56 that requires, among other things, that all public schools in the state report the immigration status of all children and their parents attending school. Even though a federal judge blocked this part of the law, the state government went ahead with it anyways, stating that it will “not” impact the attendance of Latino students. Well, the U.S. Department of Justice ordered that all attendance records of all schools in Alabama be turned over by the Alabama Department of Education to the Justice Department. What the Justice Department found was that the number of absences of Latino students had doubled and even tripled since HB 56 was passed. In other words, these kids have been pulled out of the schools, and most do not seem to have returned. These records have not been released to the public, but the findings of the U.S. Department of Justice makes it clear that Latino children have been greatly impacted by HB 56.

When the Southern Poverty Law Center, a well known civil rights and advocacy legal organization, demanded that the Alabama Department of Education turn over these same records as part of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s lawsuit on HB 56, the State of Alabama refused. It seems that the State of Alabama has a lot to hide. Such records will most likely show that contrary to what the Alabama state government had said almost a year ago, the law greatly impacting Latinos. It is impacting Latinos in all manners of society. It is also impacting the children of Latino parents—be they undocumented or legal permanent residents. What HB 56 is forcing parents to do is show detailed documentation on themselves, and basically stating that they are in the country legally which is not the business of state schools. When I was growing up, schools never asked for information on whether my mother or father was a U.S. citizen, and whether they were in the country legally. The problem of this law in Alabama is that it dumps a big burden on the parents to “prove” they are here legally which has no connection to education, or to the better care of the children.

Quite the contrary, the parents are being forced to take the children out of school and probably out of the state. This is the intended consequence of HB 56. It is the intention of those who created this legislation to not only force most if not all Latinos out of the state but also to stigmatize all Latinos with the word “illegals.” It is the new racism and new Jim Crow Law of the 21st Century. It is tragic that the powers that be in Alabama are trying to repeat their past. Alabama was one of the last states to finally be forced to give up its legal discrimination of African Americans in the middle 1960’s. Yes, the State of Alabama will not release its school attendance records to the Southern Poverty Law Center or to the public. It has something to hide.

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