“This is Martin Luther King’s birthday celebration, and he famously said that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, and HB56 is a threat to me and to all Americans.”
That’s how Scott Douglas, executive director of Greater Birmingham Ministries, defended his support for Hispanic immigrants on the satirical comedy news show The Colbert Show on Monday. Douglas’ response earned raucous applause from host Stephen Colbert’s audience.
Douglas has been with GBM since 1993, and has recently taken on the fight against Alabama’s tough immigration law, which is known as HB56. Before the interview, Colbert described Douglas as “a community organizer who believes anti-immigration is the civil rights issue of our time.”
During the interview, Douglas described HB56 as a law that “burdens family, breaks up families, forces to split up our families, burdens taxpayers and makes law enforcement take on the extra job of checking out people at traffic stops.” Douglas argued against a patchwork state immigrant law system in which all 50 states have their own anti-immigrant laws, and in favor of a comprehensive federal immigration law “that’s just and fair for everyone.” Douglas also mentioned the argument that HB56 diverts scarce law enforcement resources to immigration enforcement, a view shared by Jefferson County Sheriff Mike Hale and other Alabama law enforcement officials.
At one point, Colbert told Douglas that he is unable to see color (a long running Colbert Report gag), and asked if Douglas is Hispanic.
“I am a proud African-American, a proud Alabamian and a proud United States citizen,” Douglas replied.
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Colbert has previously taken positions — both in and out of his character, a conservative pundit who blindly adheres to right-wing ideology and searches not for truth, but “truthiness” — that could be perceived as favoring basic rights for illegal immigrants. In Sept. 2010, after working one day as a migrant worker, Colbert testified in a Congressional hearing in favor of migrant rights.
“I certainly hope that my star power can bump this hearing all the way up to C-Span 1,” Colbert joked at the beginning of his testimony. He later broke character.
“It seems like some of the least powerful people in the United States are migrant workers who come and do our work, but don’t have any rights as a result,” Colbert said. “And yet we still invite them to come here and at the same time ask them to leave. And that’s an interesting contradiction to me.”