Thirteen Activists Arrested After Protesting Alabama’s Anti-Immigrant Law
Alabama police arrested more than a dozen activists on Tuesday—including some undocumented students—during demonstrations against the state’s new anti-immigration law.
Hundreds of immigrant rights activists, community members, and allies gathered in front of the Alabama statehouse in Montgomery on Tuesday to protest what has been called the nation’s harshest anti-immigrant law, HB 56.
The action featured undocumented immigrant families who came to speak out against some of the most troubling consequences already facing Alabama communities since the law took effect. An attorney for those arrested told ABC News that most had been charged with disturbing the peace.
“Immigrant youth need to know that together we can stand as undocumented and that we can no longer be afraid,” 25-year-old Ernesto Zumaya told local press. “If we’re afraid, we’ll see a domino effect and see these laws go through other states.”
Zumaya, who travelled from Los Angeles, was among other young organizers who ventured from various parts of the country as a member of DREAM Activist to demonstrate against HB 56 in solidarity with Alabama families.
DREAM Activist is the leading immigrant rights organization comprised of young people across the country. This spring, they joined the Southern Poverty Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Asian Law Caucus, and other organizations as plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit against Georgia’s when they passed their own version of the “papers please” law—the first time undocumented youth have sued a state for infringing on their rights.
In reaction to the news about HB 56, they organized a delegation of youth activists to get to the state to begin working with communities being most directly affected by the draconian law.
HB 56, as enacted by the Alabama Legislature, allows for local law enforcement to inquire the immigration status of individuals during any legal stop, and the law makes it illegal for U.S. citizens to house, transport, or employ any one they know to be undocumented. Additionally, it bars undocumented people from accessing any public service at the state and local level, including basic necessities like clean water.
Alabama communities are already reporting the deep effects of the law.
The same day HB 56 took effect, 2,000 Latino children were reported absent from public schools across the state, triggering a showdown between the state Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Justice. And an exodus of Latino families is already impacting key industries, particularly the agricultural industry.
Conservative legislators are beginning to react to national backlash Alabama has faced as a result of HB 56.
State Senator Jabo Waggoner, chairman of the state Senate’s rules committee told press that he and other legislators were seeking to curtail “unintended consequences” of the law.
“We are looking at different fixes,” he said.
Fellow State Senator Gerald Dial was more frank.
“I made some mistakes in voting for this bill the way it was,” he said. “And I’m big enough to admit it.”
Eduardo Garcia is advocacy manager at Campus Progress. Follow him @itseddie.