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Pro-Immigration Reform Group Says: “HB 56 is in Ruins.”

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

America’s Voice (AV) and America’s Voice Education Fund (AVEF) are a public interest group organized to advocate for enacting policy change that guarantees full labor, civil and political rights for immigrants and their families.  According to their website, they work in partnership with progressive, faith-based, labor, civil rights, and grassroots groups, networks and leaders to enact federal legislation that will put 11 million “Americans-in-waiting on the road to full citizenship.”

On Wednesday, they released a written statement to announce that the policy of ‘self-deportation’ advocated by some conservatives has lost popular support.

The group said in their written statement, “Two years ago, we were deeply involved in the battle against Alabama’s HB 56, the harshest immigration law in the country. HB 56 was a self-deportation bill that relied on racial profiling to harass immigrants in the state. But, as Benjy Sarlin of MSNBC notes, today, HB 56 is in shambles.”

AV continued, “The lead sponsor of the bill boasted to state representatives that the law “attacks every aspect of an illegal alien’s life…Among its key provisions: landlords were banned from renting homes to undocumented immigrants, children had to rat-out their parents to school principals, police were required to arrest suspected immigration violators. Even giving unauthorized immigrants a ride became a crime…The vast scope of the law turned Alabama into the first major test for the anti-immigration movement. If self-deportation didn’t work there, it’s hard to imagine where it could. Early reports suggested success: undocumented immigrants appeared to flee Alabama en masse. But two years later, HB 56 is in ruins. Its most far-reaching elements have proved unconstitutional, unworkable, or politically unsustainable. Elected officials, social workers, clergy, activists, and residents say an initial immigrant evacuation that roiled their communities ended long ago. Many who fled have returned to their old homes.”

According to America’s Voice, “Self-deportation is the brain-child of Mark Krikorian and Kris Kobach. You may recall how gleeful Krikorian was after Mitt Romney endorsed that policy. We know how that worked out for Romney politically. And,  self-deportation backfired even in Alabama, but only after causing undo harm to immigrants, the economy of the state and Alabama’s reputation. Crops were rotting in the fields and executives from foreign car companies (major employers in the state) were detained under HB 56. No doubt, there was an profound human toll from the law when it was in effect.

AV wrote, “Among state and local officials, the anti-immigration fever that led to the law’s passage has substantially subsided.  In 2008, Albertville’s local elections were dominated by calls to stop illegal immigration. But by the time the 2012 elections rolled around, the main proponents of the anti-immigration push, Councilman Chuck Ellis and Mayor Lindsey Lyons, were voted out of office along with every incumbent except Council president Nathan Broadhurst. Immigration was barely an issue in the race.  Broadhurst, along with current Mayor Tracy Honea, takes a more moderate stance on the issue. He said a turning point for the city government was when Kris Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State considered the intellectual force behind self-deportation, offered his services to help them sue businesses for profiting off illegal labor. The council voted his proposal down 3-2.”

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The group wrote, “As a policy, self-deportation has become politically radioactive. Only the hard-core of the hard-core will even talk about it like it’s a real policy anymore. Krikorian and Kobach turned their policy into a political loser,” but warned that “Alabama is still a challenging place for immigrants:  After two years of turmoil, undocumented immigrants aren’t leaving Alabama. But they still live in fear of deportation and have no obvious way of becoming full-fledged Americans.  The solution for Alabama and its immigrant population is for Congress to pass immigration reform with a path to citizenship. And, that can – and should – happen in 2014.”

America’s Vote wrote on their website, “We believe that the moment to enact this type of reform has arrived: coming out of the 2012 elections, it is clear that Americans support it, Democrats promised it, and Republicans need it.  More importantly, this positive policy change would move us forward as a country, helping immigrants, workers, business, communities, and families succeed.”

Opponents, including Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions (R) argue that America has too many unemployed and underemployed citizens and immigrants alike to pass the comprehensive immigration reform proposal that passed the Senate over the summer.  The “Gang of Eight” written legislation supported by President Obama and a bipartisan majority of the Senate would put an estimated eleven to twelve million illegal aliens on a path towards becoming citizens.  It would also increase the number of legal immigrants that are allowed into the nation substantially.  While the bill passed the Senate it has stalled in the Republican controlled U.S. House of Representatives.

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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