News and views from the award-winning author of the novels The Skinny Years, America Libre, House Divided and Pancho Land

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Alabama discovers bigotry has a price

Bigotry has a price.

This is what the people of Alabama are discovering as the effects begin to sink of its draconian anti-immigrant law, HB-56. Enacted less than two months ago on September 29th, many in Alabama are now having second thoughts about the law proudly dubbed "the nation's harshest" by its authors.

You see, in an effort to root out the wanton and dangerous criminals who are doing honest work without a visa, Alabama's legislators made it a felony to aid these menaces to society in any way. When first introduced, the law was cheered on by 80% of the Alabama electorate. But now that "real Americans" are experiencing the cosequences of HB-56, demands are coming that the law be "tweaked." The reason?

The law demands proof of citizenship or legal residency for virtually every type of government service and transaction. And any government official who does not enforce the law is subject to felony charges. (And we all know how cooperative state bureaucrats are to begin with.)

As a result, everyone in Alabama will be required to "show their papers" not just to get a driver's license but for activities like dog licenses, garbage pickup and flu shots at county health departments. Other activities that might fall under the purview of the law include paying taxes, renting a pavilion at a county park, enrolling children in a Little League team or signing up for a membership at the county swimming pool. Professionals like architects, nurses, hair stylists, plumbers, real estate agents and a host of other professions will have to demonstrate their legal status every time they renew their licenses.

These unintened consequences are really not surprising. When state legislators ride a frenzy of fear and loathing into office and create laws based on emotion rather than reason, the real-world effects of these laws are usually overlooked. Ask the people of Arizona who recently voted out Russell Pearce, the architect of that state's draconian SB-1070.

Even as they rail against "big guvmint" in Washington, the supporters of this law have created possibly the most onerous state government in the nation. And all this because of the heinous threat posed by less than 5% of Alabama's population whose law-breaking is primarily doing the brutally hard work most in the state refuse to do.

Once again, it's clear that bigotry trumps reason -- every time.

Raul Ramos y Sanchez


Chris said...

I ran into this not long ago when I needed a new title for my car. Being out of state at the time, I filed out the forms provided by the Department of Revenue and sent them and payment in. Two weeks later I learned that my title request was rejected because I had neglected to send proof of citizenship along with the title request - not that the requirement to do so appeared on any form, on the website, or was even mentioned by Department of Revenue staff when I asked what the procedure was.

LatinoRebels said...

It really comes down to economics and it is actually seeing Alabama farmers tell their political allies that they screwed up.

Raul Ramos y Sanchez said...

Chris, thanks for sharing your experiences. Latino Rebels, you are absolutely right about the economic impact.