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Opponents say Ala.’s ‘Juan Crow’ law causes fear, anxiety

Congressional Dems hear worries over HB 56

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — If the goal of state immigration laws was to make life so uncomfortable for illegal immigrants that they leave on their own, it may be working under HB 56 in Alabama.

“HB 56 has caused a chain reaction that prevents Hispanics from living with dignity,” said Trini Garcia, who came to Alabama on a tourist visa 15 years ago and stayed after it expired.

“I never thought Arizona’s law was going to come to Alabama,” she said. “Now it’s created chaos among Hispanics in Alabama.”

Garcia was one of several speakers Monday at a hearing called by congressional Democrats who traveled to Birmingham to rally opposition to HB 56, the state anti-immigration law patterned after Arizona’s SB 1070.

Even though parts of the Alabama law have been blocked by courts – including a temporary restraining order issued against one provision Wednesday by a federal district judge – Garcia continues to worry about the law, which took effect Sept. 29.

HB 56 has caused her family to hide in their Tuscaloosa home and only go out if necessary, she said. The family has cut off all extracurricular activities for her two American-born sons.

“Now I don’t go out and feel like a prisoner in my house,” she said. “We just don’t want to stand out.”

The family needs to renew the state-required registration on its mobile home, and the license plates on their cars are set to expire next year. If the law is still in place by then, they will not be able to drive, she said.

“If we can’t get to work, we’re going to have to leave,” Garcia said.

That’s fine with supporters of the law.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, credited as the author of both SB 1070 and HB 56, said the law “creates in incentive for illegal immigrants to self-deport.” Or as Alabama state Rep. Jim Patterson puts it, if people like Garcia are breaking immigration law “they should go back home.”

State Rep. Terri Collins said that if immigrants do not want to be in Garcia’s situation they should fix their legal status.

“I don’t understand why people would chose to live under the law,” Collins said.

Kobach said Garcia’s situation “is not unique to Alabama, Arizona or any other place.” Immigrants like her, with American-born children, need only take them back to their home countries and wait until the children are adults, at which point they could come to the U.S. any time they want, he said.

Like SB 1070, HB 56 requires that local police check the immigration status of any suspect and turn them over to federal officials if they are undocumented. But while one federal court blocked implementation of that provision in Arizona, another has refused to block it in Alabama.

HB 56 also would have prohibited the state from doing any business with a person who could not prove he is a legal resident of Alabama, among other provisions. That threatened to keep Garcia from reregistering her mobile home, but a federal district judge temporarily blocked that provision late Wednesday.

Another provision that was blocked by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals would have required that Alabama public school officials check the immigration status of newly enrolled students.

Even though it has been blocked for now, Garcia said the “damage has already been done” to her children.

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“My kids feel like they are being watched,” she said of her 10- and 13-year-old boys.

While she weighs her options, Garcia said the last thing she wants to do is move her family.

“My children have the right to live in the place they call home,” she said.

The U.S. Department of Justice has sued Arizona, Alabama and South Carolina over immigration-enforcement laws passed in those states, and it added Utah to the list Tuesday.

Supporters of HB 56 have said it was only meant to target undocumented immigrants, but now concede that legal immigrants and American citizens have been affected, too. Some state legislators who voted for the law now say they are willing to “tweak” it.

But Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, said Monday that HB 56 is beyond tweaking.

“We did not amend segregation laws, we ended them,” Green said. “HB 56 can’t be amended, it deserves to be in the trash heap of history.”

Until then, Garcia said she hopes federal courts will continue to block the Alabama law until some day when Congress can pass federal immigration-reform legislation.

“We’re just waiting for some good news,” she said.

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2 comments on this story

Nov 25, 2011, 10:04 am
-0 +0

boo hoo. I overstayed my visa for 15 years and now I dont like the laws of the country i live in illegally. Where are my rights. My kids have the right to live in the place they call home. So keep on living there.  Suffer the consequences of breaking the law just as every american has to. Go back to where you came from and come to our country legally.  Too bad ya got here and had the 2 anchor kids. They are welcome because they have not broken the law. Really tired of illegal border crossers thinking they have the same rights of Natural born American citizens. Stop em at the border.

Nov 24, 2011, 10:39 pm
-0 +0

Blah blah blah more distortions of the truth, more outright lies…I would have more respect for the opponents of the law if they would just man up and admit that they’re for open borders.

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Uriel J. Garcia/Conkrite News Service

A young protester's sign references Alabama’s Jim Crow past to show displeasure over the state’s new immigration law, HB 56, at a protest Monday in Birmingham.