Once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, some great decision, offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever, ’twixt that darkness and that light.
Yesterday, the hearts of state legislator’s decided that immigrants are not human beings worthy of fulfilling their dreams in this country like others but rather a threat to America. The legislature chose to ignore the increased pressure from religious leaders to turn away from injustice towards justice.
They passed the substitute bill of HB 658 written by Senator Beason which included what is being called a scarlet letter provision where any undocumented resident who is arrested on any charge and appears in court would have their information posted on a public online forum searchable by county and judge.
This was not in Rep. Hammon’s proposed version of HB 658 which was passed in the house before it went to the Senate. When on the last day of the session the senate version passed and went back to the house, Rep. Hammon in telling the house the changes to the bill failed to mention this drastic addition to his colleagues. The house did not have time read the bill before Rep. Hammon explained the justifications for the changes in the bill. After Rep. Hammon gave his justifications for the changes, there was a call to have the bill read again to enable the representatives to hear again how these justifications related to the bill. This request was denied by the Speaker. It is therefore very likely that once again the representatives did not know what they were passing.
Governor Bentley said he would not sign this bill. He has ten days to veto or sign the bill, if he does not it becomes an automatic veto. He has placed immigration back on the agenda for a special session that still needs to address such issues as redistricting and bonds.
He specifically stated he dislikes the scarlet letter provision calling it a public relations problem. The Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice calls it a “public safety problem” because there can be only one purpose of such a provision: The implicit permission for vigilantes to take matters in their own hands and cause emotional and physical harm to people living in this state.
During the day yesterday there were cries for non-compliance to this law. Seven of my friends, part of a group I belong to called Alabama’s Conscience, were arrested for their attempt to block legislator’s from making this vote. They prayed and sang songs. They were charged with disorderly conduct.
When hearts have grown so very cold to see no violation of human dignity, no violation of moral ethics in breaking apart families in these laws, then the conscience must step up and intervene. It becomes our moral duty to not comply with this law in the quest to break open the hearts of others to see what this law is doing to all Alabamians in order for justice to prevail.
After the vote, our own hearts literally broke that our own leaders would seek to cause violent harm against another. And while their actions may not be in the form of physical violence, their actions are committing emotional and spiritual violence, not only to immigrants, documented and undocumented, but also to their very souls.
We pray for the salvation of Alabama and for all of America. We are even more resolved to continue being Alabama’s Conscience and we will continue doing all that we can to non-violently show the pain this law is causing all of us. It means we will not comply with this law. We will not allow hatred to proliferate in our state.