By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
Under the rallying cry, “One Heart, One Alabama: Rally and Lobby Day to Repeal HB56,” hundreds of people descend on the Capital Tuesday to protest Alabama’s immigration law. Many had gathered in front of the Statehouse before the buses rolled onto Union Street. Volunteer workers set up tables with T-shirts and informational literature in front of the State House.
Three 20-something women were positioned behind one of the tables selling red T-shirts with ACIJ printed on the front. ACIJ stands for Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice. The first woman, a Caucasian, said she was from Mobile and that she had volunteered for the protest because she loved people and wanted to see all people treated fairly.
The second young woman said she was a Californian of Hispanic descent but now lived in Montgomery. She said she was was taking part in the protest because she felt she needed to stand with those who shared her hispanic background.
The last woman at the table was an African-American who lives in Montgomery. She said, as a woman and as a minority that she understood first-hand discrimination that these people were experiencing. She said she wanted to fight for anyone who was oppressed. Many Hispanics who gathered for the event said they were from Clanton or Albertville, Alabama.
Catherine Han Montoya was presented as the spokesperson for the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice. Montoya is a Senior Program Manager with The Leadership Conference Education Fund, a part of the civil rights organization The Leadership Conference, headquartered in Washington D.C.
Montoya, said that they had brought the group to Montgomery to see members of the legislature and to demand the repeal of HB56.
“We know there has been some talk about making some tweaks to the bill, but this bill is bad through and through,” said Montoya. “Whether it is the effect on the economy, its devastation to the education system or the tearing apart of families, there is not much tweaking that can be done to something this bad.”
Montoya said they were here to urge the legislature to repeal the bill and get Alabama back on track. Even in the face of the bill’s popularity Montoya said, “We have come here today to show the legislature that there is another side to Alabama, that is deeply opposed to these types of laws.” She went on to say that was not just immigrants or Latinos, but also African-Americans who oppose this legislation because “they have seen this type of persecution before.”
Montoya said, “it is also faith leaders, who believe anybody should be able to worship in their church without having to worry about their citizenship status.”
She also said that there were many business leaders who opposed HB56 and that they were at the rally. “These are people who may not be counted in polls but they are here today,” said Montoya, “and they represent a good chunk of Alabama.” Montoya concluded by saying, “Sometimes politicians just need to do what is right.”
An estimate was made that around 400 to 500 people attended the protest.
After speeches on the State House steps many in the group, especially children, visited with legislators bringing them Valentines cards.
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, speaking from the floor of the Senate, thanked the visitors for coming, and commented how in our country and in Alabama we welcome and stand by freedom of speech.