Bobby Singleton, the Alabama state senator who represents Greene County, took offense when state Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, recorded himself referring to Greene County residents as “aborigines.” And though that tape was played in court almost a year ago, it seemed fresh on the Greensboro Democrat’s mind when he questioned Beason’s immigration law during Senate debate Wednesday.
Beason recorded his “aborigines” comment while wearing a wire for the FBI in the Alabama bingo corruption investigation. The conversation, which was played in court in June, included several Republican colleagues, including former Rep. Ben Lewis (R-Dothan). Lewis refered to Greenetrack, the gambling hall located in predominately-black Greene County (which is part of Singleton’s district), and suggested the bingo hall was run by Native Americans.
“That’s y’alls Indians,” Lewis said.
“They’re aborigines, but they’re not Indians,” Beason replied, according to the transcript.
Beason apologized for that comment, and many members of the Alabama legislature, including some black lawmakers, have forgiven him. But on Wednesday, Singleton still had questions.
“I guess you and I haven’t had this conversation, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you this question: As natural born citizens in this state, who have been born in this state — and, as you so eloquently pointed out, I guess a new ethic group in this state called aborigines — how do we fit in this process?” Singleton asked Beason during a debate on changes to Beason’s controversial immigration law, now colloquially known as HB56. “Those aborigines who live in Greene County, Ala. — how do they fit in terms of this bill, and whether or not we are going to have to start showing ID and documentation everywhere we go, being that we were natural born citizens of this state?”
“The citizens of Alabama are treated the same way across the board,” Beason replied. “HB56 deals with illegal immigration…”
Singleton: “So are we going to be considered illegal immigrants at this time?”
Beason: “I don’t believe so, Senator.”
Singleton: “So the aborigines in Alabama will be considered legal immigrants?”
Beason: “I believe all citizens are considered citizens in this state.”
Singleton: “Are we considered citizens under your definition of a citizen?”
Beason: “Yes sir.”
Singleton: “We are? It didn’t sound like that on your taping recording that we were citizens, so I just wanted to make sure that we were going to be citizens in this state under this law or if we were going to have to do something extra special just to get acknowledged in this state, Senator.”
Beason: “No, I think everybody’s good.”
Singleton: “Well, thank you very much. I really appreciate that because I was confused about that, and I’d been wanting to ask you that question and I was just going to wait until this immigration law to see where we fit in it, since you singled us out as a new group of folks—”
Beason: “I’m glad you asked me about it.”
Singleton: “—as a whole new group of people over here, and I just wanted to know because I didn’t realize that that’s what we were until you told me.”
Beason: “I’m glad you asked.”
Singleton: “Thank you sir, and I really appreciate it, because my folk wanted me to make sure that they got the right kind of ID and the right kind of verification so that [unintelligible] the E-Verify, they have to say that they’re aborigines or whether or not they’re just citizens of Greene County, Alabama.”
Beason: “There’s a whole list of how you prove your citizenship and how you prove your lawful status and that applies to everybody equally.”
Singleton: “Because immigration is about documentation and not about ethnic groups, correct? Would you agree with that?”
Beason agreed, and Singleton yielded to Sen. Gerald Dial (R-Lineville), to offer a substitute to Beason’s bill, which failed.
Debate over changes to Alabama’s anti-immigrant law continue. Follow @SecondFront on Twitter for live coverage.