An AFL-CIO report released Thursday determined that a recent immigration law "hearkens Alabama back to the bleakest days of the state’s racial history."
HB56, which went into effect September 28, follows similar laws in Arizona and Georgia, which have been challenged by the administration of President Barack Obama as infringing on federal prerogatives.
It gives police the power to detain any immigrant on a “reasonable suspicion” they are in the country illegally, and outlaws business transactions with illegal immigrants.
The law also established that public schools can check the immigration status of its students and that all immigrants must carry identification showing that they are legal residents.
"It has turned a significant class of people, effectively, into legal nonpersons, subjecting them to a kind of legal exile," Mary Bauer, legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, testified at a recent ad hoc hearing on HB 56. "It has destroyed lives, ripped apart families, devastated communities and left our economy in shatters."
The AFL-CIO is calling on labor groups to establish a rights-based response to immigration laws in Alabama and other states.
"Immigration has never been an easy issue for the labor movement, but it is imperative we address the issue head-on," authors of the report (PDF) wrote. "We have to educate our members and our leaders to recognize that laws like HB 56 are anti-worker laws. We also need to give state federations the tools to fight against these types of legislative efforts."
"None of us expected to witness the humanitarian crisis we experienced--a crisis that hearkens Alabama back to the bleakest days of the state's racial history. The parallels to Jim Crow were all too real, and the prejudice we heard about felt all too familiar."
-- with AFP