A new series of videos explores life in Alabama post anti-immigrant legislation HB-56. Created by Hollywood director Chris Weitz, the videos feature interviews with real Alabamans affected by the new law and ask “Is This Alabama?”
In this clip, an Alabama citizen discusses the relationship he’s built with the family of his undocumented neighbor and co-worker–and how the possibility of them having to leave the state impacts him.
Yesterday marked the first day of the Alabama legislature’s 2012 session, and the first time state representatives have met since HB 56, the radical anti-immigrant legislation they passed last year, was allowed to go into effect.
The backlash from national observers and Alabamians has been so severe, that even the House GOP Majority Whip who previously voted for the bill is already proposing substantial changes as a result of negative constituent feedback.
Last night, in advance of Governor Robert Bentley’s state of the state address, Alabama residents and faith leaders organized by the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice held a candle light vigil outside of the State Capitol in opposition to the law. Forming a human “love thy neighbor” banner, they sent a powerful reminder that this kind of mean-spirited and harmful legislation has no place with the values of people of faith and concerned citizens of Alabama.
Watch a video of vigil participants explaining their reasons for coming out to oppose HB 56 last night:
This American Life ran a fantastic episode on the Alabama immigration law last week. In it, reporter Jack Hitt interviews a host of people affected by the law, as well as the State Senator Scott Beason who has championed it and Kris Kobach, the national architect of these “self-deportation laws.”
But the most interesting person Hitt talks to in the segment is Republican State Senator and Majority Whip Gerald Dial, who — after initially voting for the law — is now leading a campaign to amend it based on all of the negative feedback and unintended consequences constituents are reporting back to him.
Dial explains that his change of heart came in part because, as a committed Christian, he saw the way the new rules called into question acts of genuine religious charity — causing faith-based service providers to fear that their open-door policies could put them on the wrong side of the law.
When Dial indicates that the criminalization of Christian charity is one of the problems with the legislation he’s proposing to remedy by amending the bill, Hitt asks him a poignant follow-up question:
Hitt: So once you’ve amended the bill, do you think Jesus would vote for the bill?
Dial: Gosh you’ve asked me a tough question, you know. I would hope that he would understand. I would say that, would he vote for the bill? [Pause] Probably not. You know, probably not. If you just laid it all the way down, probably not.
Perhaps that’s a question the other Christian lawmakers in Alabama should be asked as well.
A new report conducted by a researcher at the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Alabama finds that flight of Alabama’s immigrant community since the passage of anti-immigrant law HB 56 has cost the state tens of thousands of jobs and tens of millions of dollars in lost sales tax revenues.
Dr. Samuel Addy, the author of the report, puts it bluntly:
While the law’s costs are certain and some are large, it is not clear that the benefits will be realized. From an economist’s perspective, the question Alabama and its legislature have to ponder is this: Are the benefits of the new immigration law worth the costs?
The analysis stands as a stark rebuttal to Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the author of the legislation. In an interview with Think Progress this week, Kobach (who also authored a similar bill in Arizona) boldly asserted that he believes the law is having “no negative impact.”
Clearly Kobach is unwilling to let facts get in the way of his anti-immigrant ideology. Yet focusing narrowly only on the economic costs misses the larger point. Such draconian and hateful legislation undermines our values and blemishes our character. The economic costs are significant, but the moral costs are greater.
A recent change in Kansas’s food stamp eligibility guidelines by Governor Sam Brownback’s administration has kicked thousands of children off the rolls and left their families scrambling to put food on the table — an interesting policy decision for a leader who claims reducing child poverty is his top goal. These children’s disqualifying offense? Being born in America to undocumented parents.
By law, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a federally funded but state-run program, is prevented from providing benefits to non-citizens, but their U.S.-born children can qualify if their household income falls below 130 percent of the federal poverty line.
The Department of Agriculture (which oversees SNAP) gives states a choice between two different sets of eligibility metrics. Kansas is already one of only four states to use the tighter standard, but in the last few months they have restricted eligibility even more for households including undocumented individuals — a “tweak” that abruptly rescinded the crucial assistance for more than 2,000 Kansas kids.
The administration’s pitiful defense was that they were just fixing a glitch in the system in pursuit of fairness and equality, but as the Kansas City Star editorialized this week, this justification is “misleading and shamefully lacking.” If the Brownback administration’s only goal is to rectify an administrative problem, they could surely do it without kicking vulnerable kids to the curb.
Hiding behind bureaucratic double-speak to excuse the real harm you’ve just caused for thousands of your most vulnerable citizens is as cowardly as it is cruel.