As the year comes to a close, it’s hard not to think about the upcoming holidays—for better or for worse, this is the time of year when family get-togethers tend to happen. But for many immigrants in Alabama, including thousands of African immigrants and tens of thousands of Latinos and Asians, the holidays will be less joyful than they might have been. After the passage of the state’s harsh immigrant law, HB 56, thousands of immigrants have left the state, fleeing the hardships that would flow from the law’s extreme restrictions on every aspect of existence, including merely being present. Considering that half of Alabama’s undocumented population live in mixed-status families—families that include at least one U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident—HB 56 is likely to have forced some Alabamans to make a difficult choice: stay put and say goodbye to fleeing family members or abandon home in order to leave with their families. In the shadow of this law, those who have decided to stick it out in the state’s hostile environment may find themselves without water, work, or even a home.
In recognition of the cruel outcomes that have come from Alabama’s legislation, the “One Family, One Alabama” campaign seeks repeal of HB 56. Supported by Congressman Luis Gutierrez and other members of Congress, the “One Family, One Alabama” campaign also intends to hold the Administration, including Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano, accountable for the suffering that has become commonplace in Alabama. Sec. Napolitano has voiced support for the Department of Justice’s suit to enjoin the enforcement of HB 56, yet her actions suggest otherwise: DHS’ Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has not suspended programs in ICE’s ACCESS portfolio, such as the Criminal Alien Program and Secure Communities (S-Comm). Under ICE Agreements of Cooperation in Communities to Enhance Safety and Security (ACCESS), federal immigration officials benefit from—and essentially condone—the use of racial profiling and perpetration of rights violations that occur through the enforcement of HB 56.
Though Alabama legislators and ICE officials may not recognize it, the importance of family is a concept that knows no boundaries—cultural, national, or otherwise. HB 56 leaves an estimated 28,000 U.S. citizen children in Alabama vulnerable to losing a parent due to immigration status. ICE needs to recognize that the human costs of this legislation are too high and do more than rhetorically rebuke Alabama for this law. Alabama needs to realize that this law has already split families apart and will continue to do so until it is repealed. The “One Family, One Alabama” campaign sets out to bring ICE and Alabama to see the harm they are doing to our communities when they do not respect the importance of family.
The National Coalition for Immigrant Women’s Rights (NCIWR) works on a wide range of issues affecting immigrant women in the U.S., including how our immigration laws, policies, and practices tear families apart. For more information about our work, please take advantage of NCIWR’s information and resources at http://nciwr.wordpress.com/.