When We Assume or Update on Public Hearing SB 256

Tuesday was the day for Alabama’s Senate to hold their public hearing on their version of the Arizona style immigration bill, SB 256.  This public hearing had a different feel than the house version of this bill.  It was located in a small cramped room of standing room only.   The senators instead of just listening to comments made their own comments in response.  It was these comments that were most telling regarding the mindset behind this bill.

All of the speakers who spoke to this bill spoke in opposition. Shay Farley of Alabama Appleseed confronted the assumptions that are written directly into the bill’s language.  It was the direction I would be going in my presentation as well when my turn to speak came.   She spoke directly to the assumption that “illegal immigrants” are the cause of lawlessness and economic hardship.  The responses from Senator Scofield and another senator whose name escapes me were of the anecdotal stories of gangs, of property values decreasing because of overcrowding, the costs to schools for Spanish translators where the population is 20%  immigrants, and of hospitals not being able to recoup full costs from births of immigrants.   Anecdotal stories based on assumptions that if “illegal immigrants” were rounded up and deported then gangs would disappear, overcrowding of housing would cease, the need for Spanish translators would no longer exist, and hospitals’ maternity wards would be paid in full.  Ms. Farley countered that hospitals are mandated by federal law to provide services regardless of immigrant status. Once the child is born they are citizens thereby making hospitals eligible for full reimbursement.  The senator responded that if the immigrants simply were not here in the first place the hospital would not have to worry about full or partial reimbursement.

There is another narrative that could be applied to these anecdotal stories. That narrative is one of extreme poverty but to apply this narrative would require a different solution where tax codes are revised so that corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes in the state enabling reinvestment into communities where poverty reigns supreme.   But in this state of Alabama where white privilege is institutionalized in its constitution, it is going to take more than retelling the story of immigrants.

The assumption that if 20% of a student population speaks Spanish then that same 20% must be here illegally or born to parents who are here illegally is a false assumption.  The senator stated that if these illegal immigrants were removed then the school could hire more teachers instead of having to pay for translation services.  It is a huge assumption that 20% native Spanish speaking children in a school equals 20% undocumented children.  How would the school district or the state for that matter  accomplish the removal of these students so that there would no longer be any need for the nine translators the senator stated this school now employs?

It is quite simple of course.  Begin by stopping every driver who appears to be of foreign descent.  Now it could be for legal reasons such as driving over the speed limit or failure to use turn signals but it might also be for such minor infractions like a cracked tail light.  Create laws that require every aspect of the immigrant’s  life is spent proving their right to be here.  Every new job, every new rental, every new medical procedure, every minor infraction, every time  a ride is hitched to work, every time a church provides transportation to attend worship, every time a driver’s license is renewed, every time a marriage license or a hunting license is sought, every time children are enrolled into school or college ; the immigrant is there proving their right to exist. This proposed legislation impinges on all of these aspects of life in this state and creates felonies for all who refuse to comply to it.  This is legal harassment.

The assumption that “illegal immigrants” are receiving services that they do not deserve is strong.  And since the state cannot know who is or is not here illegally, every one who is of reasonable suspicion is stopped. It is no longer about removing undocumented people, it is about removing immigrants from the state.

A young woman spoke and stated that she is the face of immigrants in the state.  She stated that her parents became citizens through the immigration act of 1986.  The opportunities created for her family has enabled her to pursue her doctorate  but because she is Latino she will be targeted under this legislation. By her looks  alone  it will be assumed that she is undocumented.  Senator Sanford replied that all she needs to do is show her driver’s license and be on her way as if the indignity of being targeted again and again is that easily resolved.  He added that he appreciates her putting a face to immigrants in the state but hers was not the face this bill is targeting.  Senator Sanford does not get it.  His response was smug and arrogant.  His response implied that he could tell what the face of an undocumented person looks like in Alabama.   How many times will a police officer see her brown skin and then create a reason to check her out?  How many time will this happen before she decides Alabama is no longer a safe place for her because of institutionalized white supremacy and privilege?

Assumptions about the anecdotal stories is what is driving this bill.  Not facts.  Not concrete data.  But assumptions on the anecdotes.  Assumptions that are developed through the lens of a constitution that was never dismantled and discarded after the civil rights movement struck many of its provisions federally unconstitutional.  A constitution that still declares itself to be a white supremacist document and still institutionalizes white privilege through out the state.  The white senators do not get it.  They sat there and in the face of facts and in the face of evidence that proved their assumptions wrong, they smugly stated they were in the right.

I will post the text of my presentation in a separate post.

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2 Comments

  1. Excellent commentary on the consequences of following a misguided personal agenda without regard for the overall common good.

    Thank you for the prompt report and for taking the time to travel to Montgomery and to speak so eloquently.

  2. Thank you for this! Of everything I have read this makes so much sense. I would love to be able to link to your posts.


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