Immigration Law Foes Take To Streets

By  | December 3, 2011 | Filed under: News

FLORENCE – A small group of students and activists held a protest rally in opposition of Alabama’s strict new anti-immigration law Thursday at Wilson Park. About 30 protesters, carrying signs and hurling slogans, marched up Court Street to The University Of North Alabama, and on to The Memorial Amphitheatre. They were rather well behaved, however their message was clear: The new Alabama anti-immigration law, the Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act, is not only in violation of the U.S. Constitution; it is simply wrong.

One of the march participants, Spanish-language associate professor at UNA, Dr. Robert L. Adler called the event a march toward understanding. He said it is part of an ongoing effort to explain the issues to The Shoals Community at-large. He was disappointed that, other than the thirty-or-so marchers, practically no one from outside was on hand to hear their message.

Dr. Robert L. Adler

Adler suggested that the law, HB-56, was inherently racist, notwithstanding the fact that the language is carefully crafted to be racially neutral. “To some degree, it is hard to pick out Hispanics”, Adler said, “and its racial profiling because some of us look Hispanic and some of us don’t. So are we only going to pick the Hispanic-looking persons, or are we going to examine anyone and everyone?” Adler’s remarks reflected the sentiment of a number of participants in the march. He said that a primary problem with the law is a perceived focus on Hispanic immigrants.

Amanda Hernandez is one of the student organizers. Ms. Hernandez, a natural-born Citizen of the U.S., is married to a Puerto Rican, also a natural-born Citizen. “He served 12 years in the U.S. Army, she explained, “but because of the color of his skin he has been harassed.” Ms. Hernandez added, “This law really does play off the ignorance of the people here. We want to educate people to prevent that from happening.”

Amanda Hernandez

The marchers began their journey from the statue of W.C. Handy, proceeded down Tombigbee to Court Street, then turned right and headed up to the gates of The University Of North Alabama. From there, they marched to The Memorial Amphitheatre where speeches were given by a number of organizers and invited guests.

Associate Professor of Spanish, Dr. Scott R. Infanger told the audience that Ms. Hernandez asked him if he would be willing to stand with the students in protest of HB-56. “I’m not brave enough to stand up and throw something at the University President, but I would protest, if it needs to be, I would protest the immigration law. We felt now is the time… its an opportunity for students to come together and do some old-fashioned student organizing and do some protesting.”

Dr. Infanger was followed by Vice President For Student Affairs, Dr. David Shields, who congratulated the students for taking part in the march. He expressed his belief that one value of the college experience is the ability to develop critical thinking skills and also to be willing to speak out on issues.

Dianne Steele, NAACP

There were a number of NAACP members at the gathering who came to support the effort of the students. Dianne Steele, the NAACP State Organizer For Immigrant Issues addressed the audience. “The NAACP, along with our half-million adult and youth members throughout the United States are frontline advocates committed to the dismantling of HB-56. We stand in solidarity with all who oppose the harshest anti-immigrant state legislation to date.” Ms. Steele went on to say, “This law is misguided, is mean spirited And this law is brutal. Please understand that this law has led to isolation, fear and oppression of many in this great state of Alabama. In the state that has been historically known as the Cradle of Civil Rights, we know that HB-56 represents severe violations of those fundamental ideas. Alabama must not, and will not return to it’s past.”

 

 

 

 

Hank Sherrod, ACLU

The last speaker to address the rally was Alabama ACLU Vice President, Hank Sherrod, who delved into some of the Constitutional issues with HB-56. “The fight that we have, all of us, who see HB-56 as undermining the civil rights that those before us fought so hard for forty years and more ago, it stirs up everybody’s fears.” He said that a lot of organizations have banded together to fight this law in the courts. He pointed out that they fought HB-56 first when it was still just a bill in the State Legislature. He said that even though they were unsuccessful, it might have been even worse if the Bill’s authors had not had any such opposition from the civil rights organizations. Mr. Sherrod explained that rallies such as this one give participants ammunition to go out into their communities and explain to their neighbors how a law like this undermines traditional American values. “The ACLU is about protecting The Constitution. If you see us as lawyers, we see out Client as The Bill Of Rights. In the Bill Of Rights, it doesn’t just protect Citizens. A lot of people don’t realize that. It protects persons. and HB-56 is about division that is illegal as a Constitutional matter. It forgets that the Constitution, which guarantees that due process and equal protection applies to all persons here in this country. And the ACLU fights in the courts and the legislature and amongst the people to try to protect those rights for all people, not just citizens.”

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