Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Scot Kersgaard: Alabama gives birth to a new civil rights movement

Alabama gives birth to a new civil rights movement
By Scot Kersgaard
The Colorado Independent

With State Senator Russell Pearce’s dramatic recall in Arizona behind us, the nation’s immigration watchers turn their eyes to Alabama, now home to the nation’s fiercest immigration laws.

In Alabama, comparisons to the civil rights battles of the 1960s are hard to avoid. From local press to the New York Times and beyond, reporters and those they interview are connecting the dots, not generally in a way flattering to the state.

The New York Times was blistering in an editorial published Monday, all but calling Alabama and its lawmakers racist.

Alabama is far from alone in passing a law whose express aim is misery and panic. States are expanding their power to hasten racial exclusion and family disintegration, to make a particular ethnic group of poor people disappear. The new laws come cloaked in talk of law and order; the bigotry beneath them is never acknowledged.

But if there is any place where bigotry does not go unrecognized, it is Alabama.

“It is a fear of folks who are not like us,” said Judge U. W. Clemon, a former state senator and Alabama’s first black federal judge, now retired. “Although the Hispanic population of the state is less than 5 percent, the leaders of the state were hell-bent on removing as much of that 4 percent as possible. And I think they’ve been fairly successful in scaring them out of the state of Alabama.”

If it was just the big-city national media piling on, that would be one thing, bu the local press has more than held its own in this regard.


The nation’s harshest immigration law… is creating nothing short of a “humanitarian crisis” that mirrors the fear and racism felt during the Jim Crow era, opponents of the law said Thursday.

During an afternoon news conference about Alabama’s immigration law, lawyers, educators and children’s advocates said the effects of the law mirror the fear and racism felt during the Jim Crow era and have led to thousands of children being kept home from school, pregnant women being afraid to give birth in a hospital and families having their water supply cut off.

When Alabama’s law was enacted, the Southern Poverty Law Center established a hotline to hear people’s concerns and offer guidance. The SPLC, which has taken a leading role in fighting the law, received more than 2000 calls in the first week the line was open.

The Center for American Progress Monday released a number of lists attempting to quantify the effects of the law.

Among the Center’s findings are that if only 10,000 of Alabama’s 120,000 undocumented immigrants quit or were forced out of their jobs, it would cost the state $40 million in lost productivity. If the federal government was to deport all 120,000, the Center says it would cost taxpayers $2.8 billion.

The Center’s study concluded that undocumented immigrants paid $130 million in taxes last year.

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