Calls to a legal hotline in the months after Alabama’s anti-immigrant law went into effect demonstrate the consequences that a law like HB 56 has on all segments of society, according to a new report released by the National Immigration Law Center today. The report provides an overview of the more than 6,000 calls that were made to the hotline, which was hosted by the Southern Poverty Law Center and staffed by a coalition of civil rights organizations immediately after a federal district court allowed the majority of HB 56 to take effect. The report focuses on three specific types of abuse: racial profiling at the hands of law enforcement, discrimination at workplaces and other public places, and HB 56’s effect on Alabama schoolchildren.
“While much has been made of the economic impact of a racist law like HB 56, precious little has been said about the human cost of laws that discriminate against specific ethnic groups,” said Karen Tumlin, managing attorney for the National Immigration Law Center and co-author of the report. “Hotline callers have reported that they have been singled out at the doctor’s office, in the workplace, and at the local Wal-Mart, simply because of the way they look or sound. This type of behavior – and laws that implicitly condone it – is beneath our most fundamental values for fairness and equality, and should be rejected by all Americans.”
The report profiles the story of one hotline caller who had called the police to report that someone had vandalized his small business. Instead of investigating the crime, however, the responding police officer began to ask questions about whether the wife of businessman – a lawful resident – had authorization to live in the United States.
The legal hotline, which is housed at the Southern Poverty Law Center and staffed by volunteers from the Center as well as volunteers from the National Immigration Law Center, ACLU, MALDEF, and LatinoJustice PRLDEF, has received more than 6,000 calls to date. These organizations are part of a larger coalition that challenged HB 56 in July 2011. The challenge has led federal courts to block most of Alabama’s anti-immigrant law, though the dangerous provision forcing police officers to demand “papers” of those they suspect may be in the country without authorization remains in effect.
Established in 1979, the National Immigration Law Center is the only national legal advocacy organization in the United States exclusively dedicated to defending and advancing the rights and opportunities of low-income immigrants. NILC uses a variety of tools, including policy analysis, litigation, education and advocacy, to advance this mission. Over the past three decades, NILC has won landmark legal decisions protecting fundamental civil rights, thwarted policies that would have devastated the lives of low-income immigrants and their family members, and advanced major policies that reinforce our nation’s values of equality and justice for all.
To download a copy of the report, visit https://nilc.org/document.html?id=800.