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Felipe Matos

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Alabama: This Is Only The Beginning

Posted: 11/23/11 07:47 AM ET

Last weekend, Presente.org delivered nearly 50,000 signatures to Governor Robert Bentley in conjunction with Reform Immigration for America, America's Voice, National Council of La Raza, Faith and Public Life, La Jefa (Spanish Radio) and Voto Latino.

When news broke out about Alabama's draconian immigration law, Presente.org members sprung into action because we recognized the threat HB56 poses to Latinos and communities of color. I witnessed some of the devastating effects of an immigration system gone wild in Alabama even before HB 56 took effect.

A few months ago I went down to Birmingham, AL with United We DREAM to train immigrant youth to build resistance in the Southeast. In the months between HB 56's passage in the legislature and its enactment, there was a human rights crisis brewing in Alabama. That weekend I met Lalo, 17 year-old and DREAM Act eligible youth; he shared with me the heinous abuses he had witnessed. Local police would arrest people without warrants. Some would hide in the dirt under their trailers until a raid was over. Other DREAM Act youth told me that police would harass children by telling that they would come and arrest them as soon as they turn 18 and would do everything in their power to deport them and their families.

I kept in touch with these youth and the situation has only gotten worse. People were packing and leaving Alabama. Some would leave their houses or sell their possessions to start again in another state. The results were devastating; parents were too afraid to send their children to school, mass migration out of the state and tons of produce rotting on the fields.

These laws are an attack on our basic rights as human beings in this country, not to mention an attack on the US Constitution. It is in moments of crisis that we need to rise as a powerful voice for justice to stop opportunist politicians from scapegoating our communities. So our voices are united and we are marching as one front to cease the painful cycle of racism in Alabama.

I met 13 youth from Alabama in the United We DREAM congress in Texas. Their appetite for learning and growing as leaders specially impressed me. They related to the 450 other participants painful stories about their community but they also focused on our struggle for humanity. This delivery is only part of the resistance against HB56.

But, people are fighting back. Communities in Alabama are organizing and Presente.org members stand behind them.

Leaders like Lalo will show us the way and the rest of the country will follow their lead to victory.

 

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