Groups Call for Alabama Legislature to Abandon So-Called “Tweak” Bill and Repeal HB 56
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Civil, human and labor rights groups are calling on the Alabama state legislature to fully examine the failings of its racial profiling law, HB 56, and repeal it instead of falling into a deeper hole with proposed changes that worsen the damage to its residents and economy.
The letter to Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh and House Speaker Mike Hubbard notes that the state has never conducted a full set of hearings to examine the consequences of HB 56, including but not limited to the impact on small businesses, agribusiness, law enforcement and school children, teachers and administrators.
“The practical and moral reasons for HB 56’s repeal cannot be ignored any longer. You can’t fix a discriminatory law. Therefore, we stand together and ask you to repeal HB 56 and abandon the equally damaged and damaging HB 658,” stated the letter, signed by leaders of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, NAACP Alabama State Conference, National Council of La Raza, Service Employees International Union, Southern Poverty Law Center and International Union, UAW.
The following comments were issued by labor and civil rights leaders:
“The Alabama legislature is now doubling down on hate, doubling down on fear, and doubling down on extremism. HB 658 further isolates the state from the rest of this country, from business investment and, ultimately, its own citizens. Instead of fixing HB 56 – this bill makes it even worse.” – Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
“HB 56 has wreaked havoc, not just on Latino’s in the state of Alabama, but on all residents of the state. Unfortunately, HB 658 falls far short of addressing the problems caused by HB 56 which include civil right abuses and racial discrimination, labor shortages, and a tarnished state image before potential foreign investors. Rather than passing a half-hearted ‘tweak’ to this bill, which in some aspect makes the situation worse, we urge the Alabama legislature to repeal HB 56 once and for all.” – Clarissa Martinez-De-Castro, director, immigration and national campaigns, National Council of La Raza (NCLR’s affiliate, The Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama, is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit challenging HB 56.)
“The Alabama Legislature has the responsibility to develop a policy that makes sense and that doesn’t violate human and civil rights. The proposed modifications to HB 56 actually worsen what already is a bad racial profiling law that will affect all of the people of Alabama, regardless of status. It also cuts deeper into the hurt that will be felt by small businesses and farmers. The politicians should remember that until the damage of HB 56 is undone, the public will never give up the battle for human rights.” – Eliseo Medina, international secretary-treasurer, Service Employees International Union
“The bottom line is that this so-called reform bill (HB 658) is a half-hearted response to the economic and humanitarian crisis that the state’s harshest in the country anti-immigrant law created. It’s incredible that Alabama’s legislative leaders have learned so little from their own mistakes and, as a result, the whole state will continue to suffer.” – Mary Bauer, legal director, Southern Poverty Law Center
“HB 658 is an immoral and irresponsible proposal which will only continue the damage to Alabama’s hard-earned reputation as a good place to invest and do business. As long as Alabama legislators view racial profiling as an appropriate tool to attack hard-working Alabamians who ‘appear’ to be ‘foreign,’ Alabama will continue its unavoidable slide backward to its dark past. I hope Alabama’s lawmakers recognize this and do the right thing to repeal HB 56, defeat HB 658 and stop the harsh and ineffective targeting of immigrants in the state.” – Bob King, president, International Union, UAW
“HB 56 is a discriminatory and divisive stain on the state of Alabama that undermines decades of progress. Its cousin HB 658 would compound this tragedy rather than fix the problems caused by HB 56, and both keep our state from moving forward. We have come too far to make fear and hatred the motivating factor of the laws under which we in Alabama live. The only way to fix HB 56 is to repeal HB 56. Repealing HB 56 would make a positive statement that Alabama respects the rights and contributions of every person who calls Alabama home, and we urge the state Legislature to do so without delay.” – Benard Simelton, president, Alabama State Conference of the NAACP
For more information go to RepealHB56.org
Full text of letter:
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
On behalf of the undersigned organizations, we write in opposition to HB 658 which was recently introduced to modify HB 56, the Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act. While we understand why the legislature is eager to look as if it is “fixing” the draconian and largely unconstitutional HB 56, it is impossible to genuinely modify a law for the better when its successful implementation requires law enforcement to engage in racial profiling and target individuals because of the way they look and speak.
By now, there is ample anecdotal and statistical evidence that HB 56 does not work and that its presumptive successor, HB 658, would be no better in its ability to “protect” Alabama taxpayers or citizens. Indeed, there is already existing research by a University of Alabama economist that the state has experienced multi-million dollar losses under HB 56, and additional evidence that the law imposes an unbudgeted financial burden on local law enforcement. There is also the incalculable cost absorbed by every Alabamian who lives under a law designed on its face to impose racial profiling as the most practical means for its implementation. HB 56 permits that disgraceful reality, and HB 658 would perpetuate it.
Consider the following:
• The racial profiling legitimized by HB 56 could be expanded under HB 658;
• The state remains ill-equipped and government employees including law enforcement are insufficiently trained to enforce HB 56;
• Alabama has never conducted a full set of hearings to examine the consequences of HB 56, including but not limited to the impact on small businesses, agribusiness, law enforcement and school children, teachers and administrators.
It’s time for the Alabama Legislature to take a leadership role and fully examine HB 56’s failure to create jobs or economic security for state taxpayers or citizens. It’s time for the Alabama Legislature to open debate on the deep, widening and unnecessary divisions that have developed among Alabamians in the aftermath of HB 56’s hasty passage.
We are certain that HB 658 would similarly fail to remedy the hateful premise that taints HB 56 at its core, because that same hateful premise remains deep within the core of HB 658. The hateful premise? That people who “look foreign” are likely to be undocumented and therefore unwelcome, dangerous and deserving of being kicked out of the United States.
The practical and moral reasons for HB 56’s repeal cannot be ignored any longer. You can’t fix a discriminatory law. Therefore, we stand together and ask you to repeal HB 56 and abandon the equally damaged and damaging HB 658.
President and CEO,
The Leadership Conference
President and CEO,
National Council of La Raza
Benard H. Simelton
NAACP Alabama State Conference
Service Employees International Union
Southern Poverty Law Center
International Union, UAW