I started Becoming Visible in response to HB 56, a harsh new anti-immigration law here in Alabama. This new law was designed to force “illegals” out of the state by denying them their livelihood and property, and threatening their communities and families. HB 56 leaves undocumented workers “unable to enter contracts, find jobs, rent homes or access government services.”
There are plenty of reasons this law is bad for Alabama. HB 56 hurts Alabama’s ability to attract business. It hurts the state’s reputation because it “rolls back the clock on civil rights and equality in Alabama.” The law is bad for business because farmers need the specialized labor undocumented workers provide to harvest crops, and contractors need it to compete for contracts in bricklaying, masonry, and stucco.
This law prevent churches from continuing to minister to their congregations and communities. Manuel Hernández, a licensed prison chaplain, was jailed in Warrior, Alabama after stopping to buy gas. It has caused churches to stop teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) classes—something immigration opponents say they want immigrants to have. As written, the law even prevents a church bus from picking up an undocumented child to take to Vacation Bible School. Church leaders have called the law “unchristian.”
Finally, because of its unprecedented requirement that educators determine immigration status of both students and parents, HB 56 is having a chilling effect on public education as well. Over 2000 Hispanic students were kept out of school the day the law went into effect. A quality free education now saves money in other public services (prisons, welfare) later. A free public education is guaranteed to all residents (including the undocumented) by a 1982 Supreme Court decision.
We need the contribution to our economy that skilled undocumented workers provide. We don’t want a Jim Crow state, we need to keep Hispanic kids in school, and we don’t want churches to stop ministering to Hispanics. We are better than this law Alabama. Won’t you help us work to repeal it?
Started by Mobile resident Todd Duren, Becoming Visible is a campaign to humanize the immigration issue in Alabama by telling the stories of real immigrants. Becoming Visible supports a humane immigration policy that welcomes immigrant workers and provides a pathway to citizenship.