If the stories from the Southern Poverty Law Center’s hotline are any indication, Alabama’s new immigration law, HB56, has had wide-ranging negative effects on citizens and non-citizens alike.
In a conference call today, SPLC legal director Mary Bauer said the hotline, which began operating shortly after HB56 went into effect, has received 5,100 phone calls. In a report released today, the SPLC tells 10 stories from the hotline.
In one, Carmen Gonzalez, a citizen and a resident of Foley, tells how she left her car window cracked and came back to find a note in her floorboard: “Go Back to Mexico.”
In another story, a citizen named Enrique Corral says he tried to buy beer “at a big box retailer near his suburban Birmingham home” when the clerk asked him for “American ID,” and then stressed that the ID must be “A-mer-i-can.” He showed his ID and was allowed to buy his beer, but the woman behind him — an African-American woman — was not asked for her “American” ID, the report says. The clerk said she could tell the woman was American.
“The hateful people are hateful no matter what, but with this law they feel more empowered,” Corral says in the report, which is called Alabama’s Shame: HB56 and the War on Immigrants.
The report also includes two stories in which traffic stops for relatively simple violations rip families apart (one for more than a month), a family that was denied water service due to their illegal status, and a story in which a young girl was denied medical service, among others.
In one incident detailed in Alabama’s Shame, a woman from Puerto Rico is told that her Puerto Rican birth certificate can’t be used to renew her car tag. After the clerk relents, the woman is told that she should return with U.S. birth certificate for the next renewal.
Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, and its residents have been citizens of the U.S. since 1917.
Bauer said during a conference call Monday that videos featuring interviews with some of the subjects of the report will be released by SPLC later. For now, you can read the report below.
“There is no fixing this law,” Bauer said Monday. “It does not need to be re-written or tweaked at
the margins, as some Alabama legislators have suggested. It should be repealed.”
Alabama state Sen. Billy Beasley (D-Clayton) was also on the conference call. Beasley introduced a bill in the Alabama Senate that would repeal HB56. He echoed Mary Bauer’s thoughts.
“We need to repeal this law,” Beasley said. “I agree with Mary—you can’t rewrite this bill, you can’t tweak it. The only thing you can do for the good of the Hispanic community is repeal this law.”
The SPLC is among several groups, including the federal government, that will offer oral arguments against HB56 in the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta on Thursday.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated that Sen. Beasley was from Clanton, Ala. He is actually the senator from Clayton, Ala.