Alabama’s new immigration policy is proving to be a huge moral, political and economic failure.
On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch released a damning report, confirming what was already all too apparent – Alabama’s new immigration policy is “grounded in discrimination.”
According to the report, HB56, the controversial immigration law that came into effect in September, denies unauthorized immigrants and their families, including US citizen children, basic human rights. The law threatens access to everyday necessities, and denies immigrants equal protection under the law.
The draconian and racist immigration policy has been a disaster for the state of Alabama. The law has had disastrous effect for the state’s economy and its image. Farmers report a shortage of workers as crops rot in the fields. Businesses that traditionally rely on immigrant communities are struggling. Foreign companies are reconsidering investing in a state that seems determined to live up to an ugly stereotype of racist ignorance that defined the deep South for so long.
The not so subtle attempt to harass and intimidate Mexican immigrants has backfired. Hispanics, legal and illegal, are simply leaving the state, unwilling to live in a climate reminiscent of the Jim Crow South, a climate of implicit, state sanctioned racism.
As one Alabama journalist notes:
Many of the people who have left the state are documented workers but fled because they didn’t want be harassed under the law. Why work in a state where you are looked upon with suspicion when you can drive 50 or 100 miles and work in a state that accepts you for your skills and work ethic?
It is easy to question the morality of a law that would deny undocumented immigrants something so simple and basic as water service. The new law makes it a felony for undocumented immigrants to enter into a contract with Alabama’s state-run water agencies.
And it is easy to question the morality of a law that drives Hispanic children out of public schools, fearing harassment from school administrators who may not approve of their brown skin or their accent.
The knee-jerk reaction of Alabama lawmakers to “get tough” on immigration has backfired beyond belief. In an effort to satisfy the worst impulse of the Republican party – an impulse towards nativism, racism and xenophobia – Alabama, steeped in prejudice, is being ruined by a self inflicted wound: a draconian and racist law that turn the stomach of most decent people.