The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 75/No. 45      December 12, 2011

Alabama rally for immigrant
rights overflows B’ham church
(front page)
BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—“We are not going to run away. We will fight for our rights,” said Roberto Leon, a truck driver from Decatur, who was among the overflow crowd here of 1,000 people outside the historic predominantly African-American 16th Street Baptist Church Nov. 21 calling for repeal of the state’s new antiworker and anti-immigrant law known as HB 56. Another 2,000 chanted, sang and listened to speeches inside.

“We were at the rally at the capitol on Saturday,” said Herman Soto, who came with his friend Reynaldo Campos. Both are painters.

“I want to learn more about the fight against racism in this city. This is important for us,” said Soto. “It is good we are getting support from Blacks and others.”

Inside, several speakers drew connections with the mass working-class movement by Blacks and their allies to end Jim Crow segregation in this city in the 1960s and the fight for immigrant rights. The rally was broadcast on screen outside and each speaker was translated into Spanish or English as needed.

“HB 56 stands in the doorway of opportunity,” said City Council President Roderick Royal. “We will collectively say no to Robert Bentley, Micky Hammon and Scott Beason. We will say no to every reincarnated George Wallace.”

On June 11, 1963, Alabama Gov. George Wallace stood in the entrance to the University of Alabama in a failed attempt to block two Black students, Vivian Malone and James Hood, from registering to attend the school. Bentley is the governor of Alabama. Beason and Hammon are members of the Alabama legislature and sponsors of HB 56.  
“This law is also aimed at us”
“If this law is aimed at you, it is also aimed at us,” said Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

Twenty two-year-old Angela Ramírez from Birmingham said supporters of the law “want to make immigrants the scapegoats for all the problems.”

In addition to the many capitalist politicians who either spoke or were introduced, the rally included NAACP Washington Bureau Director Hilary Shelton; Mitch Ackerman, executive vice president of Service Employees International Union; Dolores Huerta, a cofounder of the United Farm Workers union; Monica Ramirez, an attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center; and Zayne Smith, coordinator of the newly formed Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice, which organized the rally.

“I have come to Alabama to stand with all those opposing this unjust law,” said Luis Gutierrez, a Democratic congressman from Illinois. Gutierrez, who heads the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Immigration Task Force, said immigration policy is a matter for the federal government. “We need one immigration law for the country.”

While Democratic politicians highlight Republican sponsorship for anti-immigrant measures in several states, the deepening assault on the rights of immigrant workers in the U.S. is being led by the Democratic administration of President Barack Obama. The White House has stepped up use of local police as immigration cops, checking workers’ “status” at their place of employment. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton bragged Oct. 18 that the agency forcibly deported a record 392,000 immigrants last year.

The Alabama law like recent ones in Arizona, Georgia and other states, builds on existing federal law. Its provisions include instructing police to “determine the citizenship and immigration status” of anyone they stop and banning many contracts and business transactions with undocumented immigrants.

Meanwhile, a Nov. 23 ruling by a U.S. district judge temporarily blocked a portion of HB 56 that makes it a felony for undocumented immigrants to carry out transactions with any government agency. Among other things enforcement of that provision would require everyone living in mobile homes to provide proof of citizenship or residency in order to renew registration of the home.

Some 30 percent of Latinos in Alabama live in mobile homes, according to National Immigration Law Center attorneys. A Marshall County revenue commissioner has said that 20 percent of applications for mobile home registrations have been denied in recent weeks because of HB 56, reported USA Today.  
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