Posted on 02-27-2012
Southern Poverty Law Center Report Finds Growing Hostility Against Alabama Latinos Following Passage of Anti-Immigrant Law
Report Released Ahead of Oral Arguments in Federal Court
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) issued a report today that shows Alabama’s anti-immigrant law has created a xenophobic climate where Latinos have experienced harassment, hardship and discrimination regardless of their immigration status.
The report, Alabama’s Shame: HB 56 and the War on Immigrants, features the stories of Latinos from across Alabama. They describe being cheated out of wages, denial of medical treatment and a growing hostility against all Latinos since the passage of the anti-immigrant law known as HB 56. The report calls for the law’s repeal, citing the stories as evidence that HB 56 attacks the basic human dignity of all Latinos.
The report can be read at www.splcenter.org/hb56. Video interviews with the subjects of this report will be released periodically on the SPLC’s website at www.splcenter.org. The report is being released the same week the SPLC and others will give oral arguments in federal court before the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.
“These stories are the human face of HB 56. They are the mothers, fathers and children living under a law that has given a nod and a wink to the worst prejudices harbored by some residents,” said SPLC Legal Director Mary Bauer, author of the report. “If lawmakers are unwilling to repeal HB 56 knowing this is the type of misery they have created, we can only assume they intended to inflict this cruelty all along.”
The report includes the following stories from Alabama Latinos:
• A health clinic refused to treat a young girl due to her immigration status. Days later, she had to undergo emergency surgery.
• A family with young children lived in a home without running water for 40 days because their “papers” were not in order.
• After asking to be paid for her work, a day laborer had a gun pointed at her by her boss who declared he didn’t have to pay her because she didn’t have “papers.”
• Latino U.S. citizens have reported enduring taunts of “Go back to Mexico” and being treated with suspicion. One U.S. citizen described having to provide “American” identification to complete a routine purchase at a store – simply because he is Latino.
Other Latinos describe how a simple traffic stop can become a harrowing ordeal that tears families apart. In another story, a mother said she kept her children out of school for two weeks because she feared they would be singled out for harassment in the wake of HB 56.
Many of the stories were reported to the SPLC through a hotline the organization and its allies established for residents to report how the law affected them. By late February, more than 5,200 calls had been received by the hotline since it was established in September. The report also contains stories reported to the SPLC through other channels.
State Sen. Billy Beasley, D-Clayton, said these stories are another example of the damage the law has inflicted on the state. Farmers have reported labor shortages because HB 56 has caused workers – regardless of immigration status – to flee the state. The state’s reputation as a welcoming home for international business also suffered after police used the law to detain foreign autoworkers with every right to be in the country. Local governments also have been burdened by the law’s provisions.
“It’s ridiculous to think you can solve problems this big with a few tweaks,” said Beasley, who is sponsoring a repeal of HB 56. “This law has created a world of hurt for our state. And this report shows HB 56 is just a mean-spirited law – period. I don’t see how any Alabamian can read these stories and say they support this sort of pain and suffering. It simply doesn’t reflect our values. We must repeal this law.”
The report found that beyond any single provision of HB 56, the passage of the law itself may have been seen by some residents as an endorsement of discrimination and harassment of Alabama’s entire Latino community. It notes that even the law’s key sponsor, state Rep. Micky Hammon, conflated ethnicity with immigration status during the legislative debate of HB 56. Hammon’s conflation of “Hispanic” with “illegal immigrant” was so egregious that even a federal judge cited it in a December 2011 opinion regarding the law.
Enrique Corral, a U.S. citizen and Latino interviewed for the report, described the change he has seen in Alabama since the passage of the law.
“Hateful people are hateful no matter what, but with this law they feel more empowered,” Corral said of the new attitude adopted by some residents. “If I used to just spit on you, now I’m going to spit on you and kick you when you’re down.”