It is difficult to find the right words to express National Council of La Raza's (NCLR) outrage at U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Blackburn's decision to let stand the most egregious provisions of HB 56, Alabama's harsh and draconian version of Arizona's infamous anti-immigrant and anti-Latino law. It goes against every principle of American democracy to allow police to pull over and detain people on the mere suspicion that they might be undocumented and--even more disturbing--to require teachers and schools to collect information on the immigration status of schoolchildren!
While several troubling provisions were rejected by Judge Blackburn, there is still much to object to in her decision. The judge failed to stop the law's clearly unconstitutional directive to force schools to determine students' immigration status, a complete violation of a decades-old Supreme Court decision. Allowing the "papers, please" aspect of the law, moreover, legalizes and legitimizes racial profiling and will create confusion and chaos. Harassment and abuse of ordinary residents will increase, and police-community relations will be severely undermined as well.
This decision will endanger the civil rights and public safety of every Alabamian and the education of every child in the state. It helps no one for teachers to take precious time away from education in order to act as immigration agents. Fearful parents may take their children out of school. Birmingham Chief of Police A.C. Roper is against shifting scarce law enforcement resources away from municipal priorities to immigration. Teachers and police oppose these kinds of laws because they know that politically motivated stunts like HB 56 jeopardize their ability to do their jobs--educate children and protect the public's safety.
We all want to fix our broken immigration system, but false solutions like this one only make matters worse. We expect a higher court to side with every other court decision in the country that has been made on similar anti-immigrant legislation and overturn Judge Blackburn's extremely disappointing decision.
This law harkens back to similar laws in Alabama's past. We have been down this road before, and this is not a part of Alabama's history that bears repeating. Allowing these provisions to go into law will wreak havoc on all the people of Alabama, not just its Latino residents.