A few thoughts on the new immigration law….

It is a sad day for me. There are so many things I love about Alabama, I even wrote a post defending it against the popularized view. But slowly, I have been faced more and more with the stereotypes, and I have had to give in. I no longer want to live here, and I certainly don’t want to raise children here. I have met many wonderful people here, and I have learned many wonderful things from them. But this new immigration law was the final straw, and here is why:

The new law states that if there is “reasonable suspicion” about someone legal status to be here, the police can stop them and request they show their immigration status, and can hold them “without bond”. All non US citizens are required to carry their immigration papers with them, at ALL times, by law. This overrides the previous requirement that we carried our passport; now we have to carry forms such as our DS-2019, which can only be replaced twice EVER.

Clearly this is deeply impractical (I go hiking in Alabama for several days and I know it is going to rain and I am supposed to carry this with me, when it will likely get damaged? I go to a music festival and I am expected to carry around several flimsy pieces of paper?), but I *guess* this could be circumvented if the US produced some card like the US State ID that was more practical. But, it is not about practicality to me. It is about making anyone who looks, or sounds ‘different’ a second class citizen.

Let me explain. Currently, in the UK and the US there are laws to protect individuals from law enforcers discriminating against them because of how they look, or how they speak (and actually for many other reasons, including in the UK, their sexuality and religion… the US is not universally quite so… enlightened). You cannot be stopped and searched, or detained for these reasons (hence in high areas of knife crime in the UK, where stop and search is legalized, law enforcers are legally bound to stop and search a racial distribution approximately equivalent to the racial distribution of the area. I don’t believe that has ever caused any problems). You are basically protected from the following scenarios:

“A policeman pulls over a pretty girl to tell her she needs to fix the tail light on her car. He likes her cute foreign accent. He asks her on a date. She says no. He takes offense and decides to make her life difficult. He asks her to show her papers… she can’t, so he detains her for 24 hours. Perhaps when she realizes what is happening, she will change her mind about that date?”.

“A policelady’s husband comes home, furious. An man of Indian descent has smashed into his car and didn’t have car insurance, so could not cover the damages. The police were called but the Indian man was here illegally, and so could not be prosecuted. He drove away (something similar actually happened to my husband with a different racial group). The car needs some $5,000 worth of repairs and the policewoman finds this out at she leaves the house to go to work. 10 minutes later she sees a group of young Indian men standing on the street. Her blood boils. Why are they just hanging around? Don’t they have jobs to go to? One of them drops a piece of litter. Ah ha! She pulls over and starts giving them a hard time, and asks them to prove their right to be there. She detains them for 24 hours. That will teach them a lesson”.

Whether these are far-fetched or not, the problem is that US citizens who are white, and sound American, are protected from this. Foreigners (and, admittedly any US citizen who does not) are not. Therefore, all legal immigrants have lost what I think of as a basic human right: To be free from persecution due to the colour of their skin or any other factors reflecting their origin. Why would I stay in state that mandates persecution because of how you look? We have become second class citizens, and why the heck would I stay in a place that has legally made me so? Why the heck would I stay in a place that does that to anyone?

What has disgusted me most of all, is the response of some Alabamians. Here are some examples:

-“Well, I don’t know why you worry, it’s not going to affect you [because you are white, blonde and female]”

They don’t realise that, in eyes, that makes it effing WORSE.

-“But our state really needs help with this issue”.

Then put something across the board. Instead of police being called when there is “reasonable suspicion” if someone wants to enter high school, make it a law that EVERYONE has to prove citizenship when they enroll. Make it that when the police come to the scene of a crime, everyone has to show ID that shows their citizenship. Yes, it would be a hassle, but if your so desperate to save help your state, you can do it. You are supposed to do it anyway, I believe, although the police have no enforcement method. And even more importantly, I strongly believe in the following quotation:

Sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor Liberty to purchase power” ~Benjamin Franklin. Often interpreted as:

“They that can give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety”

-But, we need to save our state from The Mexicans. We need to keep ‘The illegals’ out.

I don’t think I even need to discuss these ones. If my child openly used language like that, without seeing anything wrong with it. I would think I had failed as a parent.

I will concede that this is not even the worst of the law. It is just what touched me. The law also says you can be prosecuted for transporting or helping an illegal immigrant. So, if a young child gets very sick, you can be prosecuted for giving him or her acute care. The cries of ‘oh, but you won’t be’ leave me cold in a state who is happy to sanction such actions by law.

How disappointing Alabama. And how tired I am of seeing people who are wary, or unsure, of me and my friends because many of us are foreign. How sad I am to go out and about in Alabama and find such insular people that they have never really interacted with ‘foreigners’. It may well not be their fault, but perhaps that just makes it all the sadder.It seems clear to me that Alabama needs much more integration. It breaks my heart what a segregated society it is (seriously, different racial groups hang out in different areas; I have had places described to me as ‘the black area’. I am not sure I have ever even seen an African-American in Whole Foods). Laws like this are only taking away an enriched and enlightened life from you and your children.

And you are losing some of the very brightest and best people. I know excellent scientists who are (American and) leaving because they don’t want to raise their children in such a climate. I know some amazing Scientists who don’t even want to move here because of it. You are shooting yourselves in the foot.

When I first commented on the segregation between blacks and whites here, I was once asked “well, whose fault do you think that is?” and I replied that I thought it was the fault of both blacks and whites. I now do not agree. The attitudes and responses I see from white Southern people (and yes, sorry, you have all been from The South), that I so far have not seen from black people, lay the blame squarely on one side of the divide.

I would say I have met some Southerners who are very sorry that this has been passed, and some who agree that a universal law (i.e. ALL show citizenship, regardless of race) is absolutely the only way forward, and some who simply want to reasonably discuss and learn. And I love these people. But that is not the majority. Let us not forget that I left my old church because at Bible study group, people went on a rant about foreigners and when someone said ‘but many of them are here legally’ I genuinely heard the response:

“Oh you don’t know. You don’t have to smell their cooking. They are not in your backyard”.

Sad.

I don't approve of this cartoon. But Alabama, this is how you are forcing the rest of the world to see you. http://theperplexedobserver.tumblr.com/post/6800089685/interfaith-march-planned-against-alabama

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6 thoughts on “A few thoughts on the new immigration law….

  1. Matthew Loop

    Lekki,

    This was a very good, heartfelt post. It makes me sad that you are experiencing wounds of our Alabama culture that are still being healed. I hope, and believe, that in a generation much of this fear of people that are different will fade away.

    But I am a tired Alabamian. Sometimes it seems like it will never end.

    -Matthew

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  2. SA

    “I don’t think I even need to discuss these ones. If my child openly used language like that, without seeing anything wrong with it. I would think I had failed as a parent.”
    Oh, how I agree!

    Like

  3. tiredOfExcuses

    Sometimes extreme issues call for extreme measures. Rather than hold Alabama (or other states for that matter) accountable, why not look to the real culprit, a useless and outdated mode of national government. We’re facing this now, much like our debt, because it’s an issue that’s been swept under the rug for decades. What I can’t understand, is why intelligent, caring people can overlook the meaning of ILLEGAL. In my opinion, stop comparing the civil rights issue with the illegal immigration issue. Their is nothing to compare. The fact is that our government has ignored the fact that people have been coming to this country and staying illegally for decades, straining our infrastructure, driving up taxes, overcrowding schools, using our medical resources, and for free.

    If you owned a business, and people walked in and took items off the shelf and walked out, you would want them arrested. Coming into this country, working without paying taxes, sending your kids to public schools, driving on our roads without having proper insurance, is STEALING and ILLEGAL.

    Why not move to Texas. Here, we have lots of illegals. They line the streets trying to grab any job they can. When they can’t find work, they steal. They drive up insurance, and drive down wages and property value. That’s what they bring to this country.

    I understand people want a better life, and if that’s the case, get in line and do it legally. Any other avenue to the US is criminal and should be treated as such.

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  4. Lekki Frazier-Wood

    I will publish most comments, but here is my response:.

    “Sometimes extreme issues call for extreme measures”. This sentence, in and of itself, may be OK. But recourse to racial profiling, which is making a judgement based on race, which is the definition of racism is never acceptable.

    ” why not look to the real culprit, a useless and outdated mode of national government” I in no way blamed Alabama for the situation per se. I simply said that this measure was NOT the answer in a civilized society. I am glad you 1/2 agree.

    “What I can’t understand, is why intelligent, caring people can overlook the meaning of ILLEGAL” I don’t believe I ever did that. Thinking that ‘I don’t support HB56’ = ‘I support illegal immigration’ is like thinking ‘I support our troops’ = ‘I am a war mongerer’. You sound very foolish and ignorant.

    “Here, we have lots of illegals” If you would like to comment on my blog, please refrain from using offensive language in future. Interestingly though, I have applied to Texas for a job.

    “When they can’t find work, they steal.” Glad no Americans do this. Oh…. wait….

    “They drive up insurance, and drive down wages and property value. That’s what they bring to this country.” And your economic evidence for this is…?

    “I understand people want a better life, and if that’s the case, get in line and do it legally. Any other avenue to the US is criminal and should be treated as such.” What you have missed, with your ill-thought out tirade (and I urge you to go and read the post again), is that I, and most HB56 dissenters, in NO WAY think people illegally in America have the right to stay there. What we do believe is that allowing racial profiling, that giving different rules of protection to people who don’t look and sound American is wrong. Hence, if you would like to read carefully, I suggest the AL implement laws that apply to ALL people. ALL people show legal status documents at crime scenes, or upon arrest. ALL show such on entry to high school. But Alabama doesn’t like that, because many people here are sadly, racist. Unfortunately, the pervasive view of racism here is 20 years behind the rest of the Northern States and Europe, where making it legal to make a judgement on someone because of their race and allow the potential to apply different laws to different races in unthinkable. They may likely day catch up, especially when they realize that (1) very few of the doctors and academics fueling the UAB-revitalization of Birmingham come from the state with one of the lowest education attainment standards (even of the ‘legals’: to borrow your offensive parlance for one angry minute) and (2) Ooooops, you lil’ racist states-people (not all Alabamians, just the racist ones here, for clarification) have devised your state’s economy so that you need foreign influence.

    I welcome that day, and until then, I leave here.

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