Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–February 15, 2012. Today, the Center for American Progress hosted acclaimed director Chris Weitz (“A Better Life,” “The Golden Compass,” “About a Boy”) who unveiled four new short videos comprising the series, “Is This Alabama?“, that turns the lens on Alabama’s harsh anti-immigration law, H.B. 56. The Center for American Progress also released the report “Alabama’s Immigration Disaster: The Harshest Law in the Land Harms the State’s Economy and Society” by journalist Tom Baxter, which goes even more in-depth into how this law is destroying the fabric of Alabama’s society and economy. Pulitzer Prize-winning undocumented journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, who has spent a considerable amount of time in Alabama amplifying the stories of immigrants in the state, joined the discussion on the film, the report, and the effects of the law.
In June 2011 Alabama passed the Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act, or H.B. 56. The law, which took effect in late September, lives up to its billing as the nation’s toughest immigration bill and goes well beyond the Arizona law (S.B. 1070) on which it was based. H.B. 56 requires schools to check and report the immigration status of their students and bars undocumented students from postsecondary education. It instructs police to demand proof of immigration status from anyone they suspect of being in the country illegally, even on a routine traffic stop or roadblock. It also invalidates any contract knowingly entered into with an illegal alien, including routine agreements such as a rent contract, and makes it a felony for an unauthorized immigrant to enter into a contract with a government entity. Finally, it goes beyond any previous legislation by effectively making it a crime to be undocumented in the state.
The video series, “Is This Alabama?“, includes four short videos that each feature state residents and take on different angles of how this is affecting the community. “Two Faces of Alabama” includes two different perspectives on the immigration law from a teacher and another Alabama resident, while “What Alabama Knows About Civil Rights” focuses on the history of the state with this type of struggle with commentary from local civil rights leaders. In “Not the Kind of Alabama I Want,” an older Alabama resident, who employs an immigrant, talks about their close friendship and the need to understand their point of view. In the last short film, “An Alabama Mother Speaks,” an undocumented mother describes the difficulty of putting on a brave face for her children while she prays daily that her family won’t be separated.
“Alabama’s Immigration Disaster: The Harshest Law in the Land Harms the State’s Economy and Society” reviews the economic and social harm caused by H.B. 56 arguing that the anti-immigration bill has caused, and will continue to cause, severe damage to the agricultural industry, foreign investment, and civil rights. Efforts to repeal the bill cannot possibly undo all of the harm wrought by H.B. 56 but repeal would go a long way at stopping the damage of a poorly conceived and hastily enacted measure. The best solution comes not from the state but from Congress, which should step in to fix our broken immigration system and fill the void created by federal inaction. A sensible federal solution would establish smart enforcement policies, resolve the status of those illegally present in the United States, create flexible legal channels of immigration that serve the national interest, and curtail immigration outside of legal status. Some of H.B. 56’s consequences at a glance include:
- Up to $10.8 billion, or 6.2 percent of Alabama’s GDP, lost.
- Up to 140,000 jobs lost.
- $264.5 million lost in state tax revenue.
- $93.1 million lost in local tax revenue.
- $80 million lost due to the cancellation of a planned headquarters tower in Birmingham for the Spanish bank BBVA Group.
- $100 million from Golden Dragon Precise Copper Tube Plant in Thomasville is in peril because of H.B. 56.
- 2,285 Latino students (out of 34,000 in the state) did not show up to school on the first Monday after H.B. 56 went into effect.
- 2,000 calls were made to The Southern Poverty Law Center helpline, set up to report racial profiling and abuses under H.B. 56, in the law’s first week of operation.
Watch the video series “Is This Alabama?“
Read the report “Alabama’s Immigration Disaster”