Making a Bad Law Even Worse
As if Alabama’s notorious immigration law, H.B. 56, were not discriminatory enough, the state legislature recently made revisions to the law that further infringe on the human rights of immigrants. Under the guise of simplifying and clarifying the immigration law, Governor Bentley (R-AL) signed H.B. 658, which was passed during a special legislative session convened to explore reforms to the immigration law. The new law, which preserves much of H.B. 56, goes a step further by requiring the state to publish the names and photographs of undocumented immigrants who appear in court for a violation of Alabama law. The new law also retains an H.B. 56 provision requiring schools to determine the immigration status of enrolling students, even though this provision has already been blocked by a federal court.
Although Governor Bently admits that he has some qualms with the new law, particularly the publication of names and faces of those who appear in court, he signed the legislation anyways, saying, “As we worked with legislators during the special session, it became clear that the Legislature did not have the appetite for addressing further revisions at this time…The bottom line is there are too many positive aspects of House Bill 658 for it to go unsigned. I don’t want to lose the progress we have made.” How exactly the revised law will contribute positively to immigration reform is debatable, and the additional provisions seem to do nothing more than create public shame and vigilantism . Jewish tradition teaches us to welcome our neighbors and treat them with dignity. Moreover, as the descendents of immigrants ourselves, we are sympathetic to the struggles of immigrant communities today. Leviticus commands, “When strangers sojourn with you in your land, you shall not do them wrong. The strangers who sojourn with you shall be to you as the natives among you, and you shall love them as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (19:33-34). Alabama’s original law, H.B. 56, was at odds with such teachings, and the new law, H.B. 658, moves even further away from these principles of respect for the other. The disturbing trend of anti-immigrant state legislation demonstrates the critical need for comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level. One component of comprehensive immigration reform, the DREAM Act (HR 1842/ S 952), has bipartisan support in Congress – we need your voice to help bring the bill to a vote! The DREAM Act would give undocumented immigrant students the chance to pursue education, military service and careers in the country they call home. Act now to urge your Senators and Representative to support the DREAM Act and allow these bright young people the chance to fully contribute to America. Photo courtesy of Politico