BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – We’ve been reporting on the unwelcome national and global attention Alabama is receiving for its immigration law, HB 56. Now it’s time to get indignant about the maltreatment Alabama’s immigrant community is suffering under the law, and the insensitivity they’re being shown by those who have convinced themselves the law only targets undocumented immigrants—rather than U.S. citizens, the state’s economy and, potentially, public health.
You can hear the indignation in voices like that of Jasmine Reyes. She was born in New York and is of Puerto Rican descent. She’s lived in Birmingham for 11 years, and now sees the effects of HB 56 in the community health clinic where she is the Director of Special Projects.
“Immigrants are afraid to come in. I started an initiative where we brought around the mobile unit to give people flu shots. We went to one community where people hadn’t gone out for a week, and found sick children and sick people. We treated over 50 people,” she said.
When the law went into effect, “about 20 parents came in to find their children’s medical records, because they were about to leave…We told them not to go, that we’d get help, asked them ‘How can you leave us alone here?’” she said. “I’m a citizen, but I have a passion for these people. We all have rights. The Constitution says ‘We The People;’ we’re people.” She’s signed power-of-attorney documents making her the legal guardian of nine children if their parents are detained or deported.
Are there children going without medical attention because their parents are afraid they’ll be detained? Doesn’t having dozens of people in a community go without medical care create the conditions for outbreaks that put everybody else’s health at risk?
To the governor of Alabama, Robert Bentley—who, ironically, is a doctor—these reports of the effects of HB 56 are just “stories.” “Those stories are anecdotal stories,” he told a reporter. “It’ll work itself out.” But the Associated Press quotes Jim McVay, spokesperson for the Alabama Department of Public Health, who says that “I don't want to spread fear, but any time people are afraid to get medical care there are potential complications.”
I visited the health clinic where Reyes works, and what I saw was more than just a story. Rooms that are typically full of people seeking medical care were almost empty.
Or look at the indignation
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