LULAC Statement Regarding Aftermath of HB56

October 14, 2011

Contact: Paloma Zuleta, pzuleta@lulac.org, (202) 812-4477

Is HB 56 Really A Win For Alabama?

Washington, DC - The recent passage of California’s Dream Act Bill, which will ensure that all deserving students get the opportunity to pursue higher education and be contributing members of society, will undoubtedly increase revenue for a debt stricken state with economic challenges to overcome. Yet, while one state is wisely investing in the success of the Latino community, another state is willingly freezing its assets and quite literally running its economic capital out of town. The state of Alabama’s refusal to recognize the critical role the immigrant and Latino community play in maintaining the state’s economic stability, has led to numerous businesses closing and hundreds of Latino students vanishing from public schools fearing deportation. With the passage of H.B. 56, Alabama’s new immigration law, the state has enacted measures that undermine the educational empowerment of immigrants, and has succeeded in deteriorating part of their labor force.

Even before the ink had dried on the recently passed bill, Alabamans began to feel the sting of the law’s harsh provisions. As immigrants left the state, farmers, contractors, and homebuilders complained that labor shortages are and will continue to hurt their businesses. School administrators worry absent students will result in the loss of future funding. Immigrant rights groups fear the law will prevent victims from reporting crime to the police and pregnant women from going to the hospital.

While Alabama’s business leaders and school administrators struggle to find a way to challenge the law, the Department of Justice filed an appeal of Judge Blackburn’s ruling. A complaint and brief filed in the Northern District of Alabama, makes clear that a state cannot make its own immigration policy with legislation that directly conflicts with current federal enforcement of immigration laws. LULAC has long opposed state intrusion into the federal government’s exclusive jurisdiction over immigration and HB 56 is an unconstitutional encroachment on federal law in an effort by Alabama to harass and intimidate its Latino population.

Those who support Alabama’s restrictive law, which requires, among other things, that police take it upon themselves to verify the migratory status from those “reasonably suspected” of being undocumented, interpret the widespread panic in Alabama as evidence that the law is working. However, the cure may be worse than the disease as family farms stand to lose as much as $150,000 this season with no one to pick seasonal crops like tomatoes and asparagus. Some farmer owners are so pessimistic as to believe that there “might not even be a growing season next year.”

According to the Associated General Contractors of Alabama, estimates show that nearly one-fourth of the state’s commercial building work force has fled since U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn’s ruling to uphold H.B. 56, leaving contractors, roofers and landscapers in the lurch. At least a half-dozen poultry plants closed or slowed operations in heavily Hispanic northeast Alabama today. Dozens of immigrant-owned stores and other businesses were closed, and workers at other establishments say customers are few and far between. In Tuscaloosa, where devastating tornadoes struck last April, many worry the lack of workers will hinder the town’s recovery efforts.

Not only has Alabama launched an attack against its own economy, it has also declared open season on immigrant children. School administrators are concerned that Alabama’s law will impact the state’s already cash-strapped school system, given that the law requires administrators to ask enrolling children about their legal status and that of their parents. According to Alabama’s Department of Education, 2,285 Hispanic students were absent from school on October 3rd, when Judge Blackburn was asked not to enjoin the state’s immigration law. According to educators, a major dip in student enrollment could mean less state funding for schools.

Alabama legislators should consider the real impact this law is having, not just on undocumented immigrants, but on Alabamans of every race, status and profession. We cannot afford to criminalize members of our society who have the potential to greatly improve our country’s economic situation. By enacting legislation that seeks to persecute them, we are actually shooting ourselves in the foot as these measures only undermine our fiscal stability and hinder our economic recuperation.

While Alabama Governor Robert Bentley hailed H.B. 56 as a “victory for the state,” the law’s intended and unintended consequences have proven to be anything but. To this end, LULAC will continue to mobilize to fight back against state legislation like HB 56 that targets Latino immigrants. This utter disregard for our civil rights has not gone unnoticed and we will continue to make calls to our elected officials, especially those on the federal level, and remind them of their mandate as public servants and guarantors of the public good. While we are currently engaged in combating these discriminatory laws, I invite you all to come alongside us in making sure that Latinos, regardless of immigration status, are treated with dignity and respect. To report potential civil rights concerns related to the impact of Alabama’s immigration law H.B. 56, please contact 1-855-353-1010 or hb56@usdoj.gov.

About LULAC: The League of United Latin American Citizens, the largest and oldest Hispanic membership organization in the country, advances the economic condition, educational attainment, political influence, housing, health and civil rights of Hispanic Americans through community-based programs operating through 900 LULAC councils nationwide. For more information, visit www.lulac.org

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