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Sweet Home, Alabama?

Last August, I wrote a post “What’s Happening in Alabama?” In that post I drew attention to proposed legislation that would make every citizen and every police officer in Alabama an immigration official. In short, it would make it illegal to do business with someone who is undocumented. (Pay them, drive them somewhere, rent a house to them, sell them groceries, etc.)

I ended this post with this statement:

Please tell me I’m misunderstanding what this law is about? It seems to me that this is segregation all over again.

And I heard predictable pushback. I was educated that Alabama was not the state it was in the 1960s. And I was told that Alabama is a democracy and the people have a right to pass laws which the people support. And I was told that illegal immigrants were stealing jobs from Alabamans who were unemployed. And that there was an exploding population of illegals from Mexico and something had to be done.

Most importantly, I was told that I was blowing this out of proportion. Those things would never really happen.

My favorite comments were from people who told me– a guy who lives 10 miles from Mexico and in a neighborhood where 70% of my neighbors are of Hispanic origin– that more illegal Mexicans in Alabama are dangerous to the people of Alabama and Alabama needs to protect itself. (4% of Alabama residents are Hispanic, by the way.)

So the law passed and went into effect in October. (Alabama HB 56And the unintended consequences began. 

You need to listen to this week’s episode of This American Life, You Reap What You Sow. I actually think it should be mandated that every Alabama resident listen to the impact this law has had on their state in just a few months. Some examples:

  • Grocery stores asking for ID prior to serving people who “look Hispanic.”
  • Employers not paying employees for work completed.
  • Landlords indiscriminately changing lease agreements, because they can.
  • Law enforcement arresting Mercedes Benz executives from Germany.
  • Companies refusing to do business with Alabama, pulling contracts and going to other states.

How about this? Still proud of this law?

School kids told me they’re fighting off comments like, I’m glad you’re all moving, we don’t want you here, you take our jobs. At a pep rally, where Latinos were all sitting up front, kids started shouting, Mexicans move to the back. And most of them did.

The law is intended so that people who are illegal will leave the state. I get it. For people who don’t take the time to understand the issues it seems OK to make life a living hell for someone else, terrorizing them to the point where they flee.

After all, they aren’t here legally. They shouldn’t have any rights at all– except the right to leave. 

But this isn’t the America we can all be proud of. This really is creating an environment of us vs. them that is strikingly similar to the 1960’s in Alabama. A place where Martin Luther King, Jr. was jailed for his protests. A place where people were murdered for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. A place where people of one color used one bathroom while people of another color used another one.

People are being discriminated against because they look like they might be illegal. 

We need to be reminded that “legal” doesn’t equal “moral.” And the majority might rule but they don’t always represent the will of the people.

Gabriella said that the new attitude has permeated every aspect of her life, every aspect.

Gabriella

Even in the church.

Jack Hitt

Really?

Gabriella

Yes, because even in the church, you find people that say, well, we are in God’s house. And then they don’t want to talk at you. And they don’t want to give the peace to you. That is so sad.

Jack Hitt

So in your church, you have the passing of the peace, that part of the service? And so in your church, when they do that, what normally happens? You turn and shake hands with people?

Gabriella

Yes. They shake hands and everything. But now I found some people that say, I don’t want to do peace with you.

Read the full transcript here.

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6 Responses to Sweet Home, Alabama?

  1. The Church State Guy February 1, 2012 at 8:32 am #

    Awesome work Adam. That is seriously important stuff and you are hitting the nail right on the head. Segregation and racial profiling and discrimination and hate. Unfortunately, I think Alabama is just leading the way for other states who want to do the same thing — or worse!

  2. Stephen February 1, 2012 at 8:57 am #

    Yep, this is really depressing to read about, especially given how much the Bible has to say about how to treat foreigners in your land:

    * Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt.
    * When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them.
    * If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you.
    * The community is to have the same rules for you and for the foreigner residing among you; this is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. You and the foreigner shall be the same before the LORD
    * He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners
    * Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’ “But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears.”

    Stephen Colbert’s had a whole load of interesting sections about immigration over the last year since this law passed – here are a few in case you’d not seen them:

    http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/405972/january-16-2012/scott-douglas 
    http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/400778/october-26-2011/alabama-s-migrant-workers 
    http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/400784/october-26-2011/exclusive—hey–remember-this–alabama- 

  3. Anonymous February 1, 2012 at 1:37 pm #

    Oh, gracious. What a mess. This is one bit of legislation that I’d fight tooth and nail against if it ever came to California. Thanks for sharing, Adam. (Off to listen to This American Life…)

    • Adam McLane February 1, 2012 at 1:45 pm #

      It’s scary stuff. While it’s true in a democracy that the majority should rule, there should be protections for über minorities. (Especially when that über minority is largely doing jobs unwanted by others.) 

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