'Go Back to Mexico'
Carmen Gonzalez was born in Texas but has lived in Foley, Ala. for most of her life. She's a U.S. citizen. Her husband has legal status, and she has two children who are citizens.
Supporters of HB 56 say Carmen and her family shouldn’t be worried about the new law. But that’s not the reality they have experienced.
“It has affected everyone,” said Carmen, 27. “It doesn’t matter if you have residency or not. Even my son came home and asked if we are going back to Mexico.”
In December, Carmen received a reminder of the xenophobia and hostility that the law has engendered in Alabama. She was running an errand when she noticed a piece of paper in the floorboard of her vehicle.
It read: “Go Back to Mexico.”
She realized that she had left her window slightly cracked. Someone must have seen the flyers on her vehicle advertising a meeting for area Latinos.
Carmen did her best to comfort the children with her. “You’re allowed to be here,” she told them. “You’re supposed to be here.”
State lawmakers may have given assurances that HB 56 won’t lead to racial profiling, but members of the state’s Latino community are well aware the terms “Hispanic” and “illegal immigrant” are often used interchangeably in Alabama.
Carmen has helped support other Latinos who fear they will be racially profiled by police as they drive through the community. She has driven them to work, school and helped them complete errands.
Though it’s been stressful, Carmen wants to help her community in the face of an unjust law. She has signed legal documents to be the guardian of several children, providing some peace of mind to parents worried about what may happen to their children if HB 56 fractures their family.
Sadly, in October 2011, Carmen had a miscarriage. She hates to think that the stress from the law caused it but believes that “it’s possible.” Still, she continues to speak out against HB 56 on behalf of the Latino families living out of their suitcases as they weigh the possibility of leaving Alabama.
“I’m a Southerner. That’s how I’ve been raised. For this law to happen to us, it’s embarrassing.”
Photo by Sarah P. Reynolds