Latinos in Alabama have experienced harassment, hardship and discrimination, regardless of their immigration status, as a result of the state’s anti-immigrant law, HB 56, and the xenophobic climate it has created, according to a report released today by the SPLC.
The report – Alabama’s Shame: HB 56 and the War on Immigrants – features stories told by Latinos from across Alabama. They describe being cheated out of wages, being denied medical treatment and facing a growing hostility since the passage of HB 56. The report calls for the law’s repeal, citing evidence that it attacks the basic human dignity of all Latinos.
“The people in this report are the mothers, fathers and children living under a law that has given a nod and a wink to the worst prejudices harbored by some residents,” said SPLC Legal Director Mary Bauer, author of the report. “If lawmakers are unwilling to repeal HB 56 – knowing this is the type of misery they have created – we can only assume they intended to inflict this cruelty all along.”
The SPLC has challenged the law in federal court and will present oral arguments on March 1 before the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.
The report includes the following stories:
- A health clinic refused to treat a young girl due to her immigration status. Days later, she had to undergo emergency surgery.
- A family with young children lived in a home without running water for 40 days because their “papers” were not in order.
- After asking to be paid for her work, a day laborer had a gun pointed at her by a boss who declared he didn’t have to pay her because she didn’t have “papers.”
- Latinos who are U.S. citizens have reported enduring taunts of “Go back to Mexico” and being treated with suspicion. One citizen described having to provide “American” identification to complete a routine purchase at a store – simply because he is Latino.
Many of the stories were reported to the SPLC through a hotline established for residents to report how the law affected them. By late February, more than 5,200 calls had been received since the hotline was established in September.
“It’s ridiculous to think you can solve problems this big with a few tweaks,” said state Sen. Billy Beasley, who is sponsoring a repeal of HB 56. “This law has created a world of hurt for our state. And this report shows HB 56 is just a mean-spirited law – period. I don’t see how any Alabamian can read these stories and say they support this sort of pain and suffering. It simply doesn’t reflect our values. We must repeal this law.”
The report found that beyond any single provision of HB 56, the passage of the law itself may have been seen by some residents as a license to harass and discriminate against Alabama’s entire Latino community.
Enrique Corral, a U.S. citizen and Latino interviewed for the report, described the change he has seen.
“Hateful people are hateful no matter what, but with this law they feel more empowered,” Corral said. “If I used to just spit on you, now I’m going to spit on you and kick you when you’re down.”