News and views from the award-winning author of the Class H Trilogy: AMERICA LIBRE, HOUSE DIVIDED and PANCHO LAND

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Political Theater At Its Worst


In 1963, before the cameras of the national media, Governor George Wallace struck a belligerent pose at the entrance to the University of Alabama to block the admittance of two African-American students. The governor's high-profile political theater came to a dramatic final act as President John F. Kennedy federalized the Alabama National Guard who escorted students Vivian Malone and James Hood into the school. His role in the kabuki drama complete, Governor Wallace stepped aside, having fulfilled his campaign promise: "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever."

Shortly after the announced release of Alabama's punitive new law targeting unauthorized immigrants, a federal judge in Birmingham has temporarily halted the ordinance. The authors of this law knew full well their legislation would be challenged in federal court. Sadly for the residents of an ailing Alabama, they will bear the brunt of legal costs for a law that will do little to improve their lot in life even if it were approved intact by the federal courts.

The paucity of need for this draconian law only proves its real intent: to scapegoat a minority as a distraction to real problems. Alabama ranks 31st among states in estimated number of undocumented immigrants. The total number of undocumented workers in Alabama is 120,000 or approximately 5% of the state's labor force according to the Pew Hispanic Center. At the same time, Alabama is a perennial cellar dweller in most social indices measuring health, education and poverty. The state is hardly a magnet for migration of any kind.

Like Governor Wallace's political posturing in 1963, this new law is another grandstand play pandering for the votes of the fearful, ignorant and insecure. The many fine people of conscience in Alabama will have to live down another act of political theater that will one day be as reviled as Governor Wallace's shameful 1963 performance.

Raul Ramos y Sanchez