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GOP Supermajority Costs State Another $230k - For Nothing

by: countrycat

Tue May 06, 2014 at 07:42:35 AM CDT

Thank you, Scott Beason.  So far, your signature anti-immigrant legislation, HB56, has stuck the whole state in Beason lines, hurt Alabama farmers, captured foreign auto executives, stained the state's reputation around the world, and cost real money that the state does not have:

Alabama has agreed to pay $230,000 in lawyer fees as part of a settlement of a lawsuit that stemmed from the state’s ill-fated, far-reaching immigration law, the Southern Poverty Law Center said today.

The state already agreed to pay $350,000 last year as part of the settlement in another immigration law case, bringing the two year payout total to $580,000 for plaintiffs' legal fees.

Today’s settlement is from a 2011 lawsuit filed by fair housing advocates and two individuals who were denied or facing denial of their mobile home registration tags, under a provision of HB 56, which the Alabama Legislature passed in 2011.

Since the official Republican line in 2011 was that the law had "no unintended consequences," I guess we can assume this is part of the supermajority's job creation plan - for lawyers.


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"Nuns on the Bus" Say: "Alabama, We're Counting On You!" For Immigration Reform

by: countrycat

Thu Jun 06, 2013 at 11:09:55 AM CDT

Tuesday night's crowd at the Nuns on the Bus Civil Rights forum was so large that the event had to be moved outside.  The 150+ people in attendance didn't mind.  We had come to hear from a courageous group of women who amazingly found themselves fighting with their own Church hierarchy on the issues of poverty, immigration, and social justice.Raise your hands raise for your voices for immigration reform

NETWORK Executive Director Sister Simone Campbell was the first speaker and she described how the first "Nuns on the Bus" tour came together last year.  The group had been lobbying against the "Paul Ryan Budget" that cut services for the poor, children, and elderly while giving tax cuts to the rich.  Unfortunately, she observed, the 40 year old advocacy group wasn't getting much assistance from the Church leaders.  So they turned to other faith communities and secular social advocacy groups.

Out of that meeting, on May 14th, 2012, the first "Nuns on the Bus" tour was planned.

Now, Sr. Simone continued, they're doing it again this year because we can't miss the opportunity: immigration reform is for the 100%.  The strategy is to "stand with bold Republicans" and encourage other Republicans to find the courage to stand with them, reminding them that "welcoming the stranger" is a tenet of faith in all religions.

Sister Mary Ellen Lacy, a lobbyist for NETWORK, spoke next and emphasized the history that brought us to this point, concluding with a call for action: "This is our time!  Not a time for sympathy, but a time to act!"

Other speakers described the issue of immigration in quite personal terms, describing their own experiences as immigrants and those of their family members.

Father Thomas Ackerman, a priest in Birmingham who works with Hispanic outreach, urged the crowd to remember:  "We are a better country because we are a country of immigrants."  He advised that the best way to discuss this issue with others is to put it in personal terms.  This is an issue that affects families, splits families, and causes huge amounts of uncertainty and suffering.  Tell those stories, he said.

Sr. Simone concluded the forum by stressing just how urgent the situation is and how we have only a limited amount of time to act.

"We want to raise a healthy tsunami of people to speak out and take action.  We have a very narrow time to get this done.  It will be on the floor of the Senate on Monday and we need a big bi-partisan vote coming out of the Senate to put pressure on the House to act."

She said she still has hopes of getting Senator Shelby's vote.  Sessions?  not so much...  But we can't give up:  "Welcoming the stranger is the glory of our past and hope for our future.  Alabama, we're counting on you!"

Learn more about NETWORK at their Web site and follow the Nuns on the Bus tour progress across the country on Facebook.

Finally, kudos to Alabama State Senator Linda Coleman who attended the event and who mingled with the crowd, speaking for a while with Sr. Simone after the forum.

Video clips are on the flip, along with some photos of the event.


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Alabama's HB56 & The GOP's New Interest In The Hispanic/Latino Vote

by: countrycat

Fri Nov 09, 2012 at 08:23:38 AM CST

Taking a cue from their failed presidential nominee, the GOP establishment has decided to abruptly pivot on an important issue.  The party that cheered for "empty the clip,"show me your papers," & "self deportation" has now seen the demographic handwriting on the wall.  They want to "deal with immigration" and take the issue off the table in future elections.

That long, low howl of protest you hear is undoubtedly coming from Scott Beason.

Writing for Forbes, Rick Ungar cites these poll results:

...Obama carried the Latino vote by a 75-23 margin—more than the roughly 70-30 split indicated by the exit polls—with voter turnout in the demographic totaling a full 10 percent of the total vote.

According to Stanford University’s Gary Segura, the professor who conducted the poll, the Latino vote delivered 5.4 percent of President Obama’s vote total, considerably more than Obama’s final lead over his challenger in the popular vote.

And so now, the GOP flip-flopping is a breathtaking spectacle that would make Romney proud.  Sean Hannity led off with the announcement that he had "evolved" on the issue.  Evolution?  Oh my....

Radio and television hotspur Sean Hannity — who for years has spit the word “amnesty” like an epithet — declared Thursday that he has “evolved” and now supports creating a “pathway” to citizenship for those already in the country illegally.
The Fox star put his animus toward the issue on display again and again. [...] He listened politely as right-wing virago Michelle Malkin suggested that Democrats wanted amnesty so they could “recruit more illegal aliens, so they can turn them into Democratic voters.”

But this sudden interest in a more moderate approach to immigration will face a good deal of pushback from the GOP base.  They're already grumbling about it on right wing blogs like Redstate.  For example:

The Tea Party tried working WITHIN the Republican party, it is time to go rogue and LEAVE THE REPUBLICAN PARTY in the DUST. THEY ARE THE Minority, not us. IT is time for MASSIVE CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE.


To those who preach moderation I say: look at the vibrant GOP in the Northeast part of the nation (and now California). Have you noticed moderate Scott Brown, incumbent, lost to the 1/32 Cherokee? Have you noticed that "the most electable" moderate Mitt Romney just got his (and our) butts whumped -- in an election that should have been a cake-walk for us?

We're not sure how this fight will play out, but one thing is certain.  It will be delicious to watch:

“We’re going back to the party of Shogun-type dynasties, where the Tea Party has their coalition, and the moderates have their coalition, and it’s going to be a battle to see who comes out on top,” said Luis ­Alvarado, a Republican strategist in Los Angeles with expertise on Latino voting patterns.

And how will the Alabama GOP react if/when the national party abandons its "self deportation" stance?  I can't wait to find out.


Discuss :: (3 Comments)

A Conversation About Alabama's Immigration Law

by: mooncat

Thu Oct 18, 2012 at 08:34:24 AM CDT

It's time to get past the name calling and get serious about reasonable immigration reform.

To that end, you don't want to miss "An Evening with Jose Antonio Vargas" at UAB Hill Center Alumni Auditorium on Tuesday, Oct. 30, from 7 until 9 p.m. The (free) event features a conversation with Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and immigration activist Jose Antonio Vargas -- who is himself an undocumented immigrant -- about Alabama's immigration law and national immigration policy. 

"I don't think we're having a conversation about human beings," Vargas said. "I think for the most part, we're having a lot of name calling, there's a lot of 'You're illegal, you're breaking the law, get out of here.'" 

It's time to stop using immigration as a tool to gin up votes in election years and start working toward a reasonable, workable solution to this multi-faceted problem.

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Scott Beason's Signature Legislation Brings In A Whole New Set of Immigrants

by: countrycat

Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 07:00:00 AM CDT

African refugees relocate to Alabama to fill jobs after immigration law scared off Hispanic/Latino workers.  Remember the GOP's brash assertion that Alabama citizens would line up after HB-56 took effect?  No, he wasn't talking about the Beason lines... he meant "line up" to fill all those jobs that the "illegals" were taking.

As so often happens when Senator Beason opens his mouth, he had no idea what he was talking about.  As Bloomberg reports:

Republican state Senator Scott Beason, a sponsor, said at a news conference last year that the restrictions on undocumented workers would “put thousands of native Alabamians back in the work force.”

Instead, it caused a labor shortage that resulted in the importation of hundreds of legal African and Haitian refugees, and Puerto Ricans, according to interviews with workers, advocacy organizations and businesses. Most were recruited by the poultry industry, in a segment of the economy that has been a heavy employer of undocumented workers, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, a Washington research group.
Wayne Farms found Eritreans, displaced by war and conflict, and other Africans through East Coast Labor Solutions LLC, a Fairlea, West Virginia-based labor broker. East Coast has about 200 workers in Alabama, owner Ray Wiley said in an interview.

Most of these worker have landed in Albertville and I, for one, certainly hope that some of the African workers stay to open restaurants because Eritrean food is awesome!

But this article should raise a BIG red flag: these workers are being provided by "labor brokers" and the last time those guys were in the news, they were employing hapless "guest workers" in near sweatshop conditions in Huntsville at the Cinram DVD facility.

The workers are employed by Ambassador staffing agency. Ambassador distributed workers, upon arrival, among 20 local landlords. Circumstances varied greatly, but some workers reported paying as much as $300 per person per month to share a small, furnished apartment with three or more roommates.

In one case in November, The Times found four Jamaican women who paid a combined $1,200 a month for an apartment with busted plumbing and no heat that had rented for $450. 

In February, the Fair Housing Center of Northern Alabama, a nonprofit agency based in Birmingham, and the NAACP began questioning housing for foreign workers in Huntsville.

Landlords "were charging some of the people $300 per bed," in "roach-infested" apartments, Jerry Burnet, chair of the state housing committee for the NAACP, told The Times last month. "They've got a little small bed, like you have in a barracks, and they were putting three in each room."

Wormsby said HUD opened the formal investigation after receiving the complaints gathered by the NAACP and the Fair Housing Center.

At the same time, Cinram was scarfing up tax breaks for its low-wage labor scheme.

Remember though... compared to Gov. Mitt Romney's little paen to Chinese slave labor working conditions, Cinram was a real "worker's paradise."  From his now-famous Q&A to wealthy supporters last Spring:

And they work in these huge factories, they made various uh, small appliances. And uh, as we were walking through this facility, seeing them work, the number of hours they worked per day, the pittance they earned, living in dormitories with uh, with little bathrooms at the end of maybe 10, 10 room, rooms. And the rooms they have 12 girls per room. 

These types of working conditions are a feature, not a bug in the Republican plan for working Americans.

So I'd suggest that we give Senator Beason a nice little Bronx cheer for yet another of his "unintended consequences" to the immigration bill.  He's managed to exchange one set of low wage workers who have little or no leverage or ability to demand fair wages & safe working conditions with another set.  And yet... maybe it wasn't "unintended" after all!

Labor brokers have a shady reputation all over the world, from South Africa, to New Zealand, to Canada, and yes... in the US.  Global Research studied the plight of these mobile, temporary workers and the description sounds depressingly familiar:

On top of low wages, no benefits, and no legal right to unionize, these workers face the constant threat of deportation if they speak out against their employer. It is within this context that we must understand the crash that six months ago killed 11 farm workers, including 9 migrants from Peru, near the Canadian town of Waterloo. Since the accident there has been no government investigation into the transportation and living conditions of migrant farm workers in Canada and fleeting media coverage. Like South Africa, migrant farm workers in Canada live in isolated rural areas, often housed directly on the farms, where they often experience severe discrimination and racism.

Don't get me wrong: I'm thrilled that some of these refugees have a chance at building a better life in a stable community with a decent job.  But we need to be vigilant and make sure that's actually the case.  Because past history has shown us clearly that these desperate people are willing to accept low wages, terrible working conditions, and are ripe for exploitation.

Anybody want to explain how this is an improvement?


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HB-56 Immigration Bill May Have Contributed To Alabama's Budget Shortfall

by: countrycat

Fri Sep 21, 2012 at 11:30:00 AM CDT

Earlier this week, the state spent over $3 million on a special election  that asked voters to do the Legislature's job & balance the state budget.  Governor Bentley & other GOP leaders blamed the budget problems on the state's struggling economy.  Indeed, the state is far too dependent on sales taxes, which can cause wild swings in revenue.  It's a "feast or famine" situation.

But a January 2012 study by UA economist, Dr. Samuel Addy suggests that this year's budget woes may be self-inflicted.  Remember the Republicans' stated goal of making life so miserable for undocumented workers that they leave the state?

They accomplished that goal and, in doing so, managed to run tens of thousands of taxpayers out of the state:

"As a result of this exodus, aggregate demand has been reduced, a negative shock that puts the state's economy on a lower growth path than would have been the case without the law," the report argues.

There are also costs associated with implementation, litigation, potential loss of economic development due to negative publicity for the state and inconvenience in obtaining services for residents.

Alabama's gross domestic product, or GDP, will take a sharp hit according to the analysis. The state's total goods and services produced will drop between $2.3 billion to $10.8 billion and the state will lose between $56 million to $264 million in state income and sales tax collections, the study predicts.

Now remember the $437 million draw from the Alabama Trust Fund.  It's a 3-year draw down of principal - about $145 million/year, which is rght in the middle of Dr. Addy's projections.

In 2010, undocumented workers paid $130 million in state & local taxes in Alabama.

Nice work, guys.  By fighting the unicorn of an "immigration crisis," you managed to tarnish the state's national & international reputation, cost the state millions in legal fees, give the state's economy a sucker punch, and scare voters into raiding the state's savings account to pay for your folly.

Truly, we can't afford any more years of Republican control and their "unintended consequences."

hat tip to an LIA FB fan who pointed out this study!


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Jeff Sessions Medals In Anti-Immigration Olympics

by: mooncat

Fri Aug 17, 2012 at 11:00:00 AM CDT

Jeffy only managed a silver medal, but I'm sure he'll try harder next time to make Alabama look mean-spirited and xenophobic.

Jeff Sessions - Silver in Saying Stupid Things

  • Alabama’s worst-in-the-nation immigration law found a supporter in Senator Sessions (R-AL). Asked about the thousands of undocumented kids were too scared to show up for school, Sessions said that it wasn’t sad. Sessions slammed the decision to stop deporting undocumented kids as “mass backdoor amnesty” that has “declared to the American people that [Obama] is determined to… circumvent the will of the people.”
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SCOTUS Rules Against Arizona Immigration Law

by: mooncat

Mon Jun 25, 2012 at 13:36:38 PM CDT

For all those immigrant-haters in Alabama who have been saying "our anti-immigrant law isn't unconstitutional because the Supreme Court hasn't struck down Arizona's" -- look out.  In a 5-3 decision the US Supreme Court just invalidated big chunks of Arizona's SB 1070.

The Supreme Court found that sections 3, 5 and 6 of Arizona's law directly conflict with federal immigration law and are unconstitutional.  Mary Bauer, legal director for the SPLC, says:

“Today’s decision is a blow to Arizona’s anti-immigrant law and similar copycat laws that have sprung up in other states.  The court’s decision affirms that much of these laws are unconstitutional because they are preempted by federal law and that they have significant concerns about the one provision they allowed to stand.” 

That provision is the racist, "show me your papers" provision that opens the door for racial profiling by law enforcement and harassment of anyone who doesn't look like us.  Rea Carey, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force was understandably concerned that the Court left that provision alone:

“This ruling strikes down some key provisions of a draconian law that makes people more vulnerable to abuse. SB 1070 and laws like it only serve to divide us by opening the door to racial profiling, infringement of civil rights, and harassment and violence against those seen as ‘different.’ While we are encouraged by parts of today’s decision, the path has been cleared for the most offensive portion of the law – the ‘show me your papers’ provision – to take effect. Nobody should be forced to live in constant fear of having their family torn part, of being separated from their loved ones, while simply trying to go about their daily lives.

The Court left the door open to revisit the constitutionality of Arizona's "show me your papers" provision after it goes into effect.

Read the Court's opinion here.

Justice Scalia was outraged in his dissent, claiming that the Court was going after the sovereignty of individual states. 

“We are not talking here about a federal law prohibiting the States from regulating bubble-gum advertising, or even the construction of nuclear plants,” he declared. “We are talking about a federal law going to the core of state sovereignty: the power to exclude.”

Adam Winkler, a constitutional law professor at UCLA, pushed back on Scalia’s argument.

“Scalia has finally jumped the shark,” Winkler told TPM. “He claims to respect the founding fathers, but his dissent channels the opponents of the Constitution. Back then, opponents argued that the Constitution denied states their sovereignty by giving too much power to the federal government, as with immigration. Now Scalia echoes their complaints that states are being denied their sovereignty. States are not sovereign when it comes to powers vested in Congress, such as the authority over immigration and naturalization.”

Yeah, state sovereignty is one of those conservative code words.  Kind of like states' rights.

Second Front has reactions from Alabama pols, most of whom are working hard to make lemonade out of this pile of lemons.  House Speaker Mike Hubbard managed to work both President Obama and states' rights into his response:

States really are the last line of defense to protect the rights of the people, and never has that been more evident than with President Obama ordering federal agents to stand down on immigration enforcement actions.  States have not only the right, but the duty to uphold the rule of law and protect their citizens, especially when the federal government refuses to do so.

They reported that HB56 mastermind Scott Beason "is still reading the ruling, but is surprised SCOTUS considered foreign affairs in its decision."  Join the club, Scott.  Many of us were surprised when the Alabama Legislature got involved in enforcing the nations borders, too.

What does this mean for Alabama's HB56?  According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which called this ruling a "major blow" to anti-immigrant laws, Alabama's HB56 ...

... includes three provisions similar to those considered in the Arizona case: police inquiries into immigration status; criminalizing being present in the state without immigration papers; and criminalizing soliciting work.  Several other provisions have no overlap with those considered in the Arizona case, including: requiring inquiries into immigration status of students and their parents;; criminalizing day laborer activities; criminalizing helping undocumented immigrants; criminalizing certain transactions with public officials by undocumented immigrants; and making many contracts unenforceable if they involve undocumented immigrants.  All these provisions have been blocked, except the requirement of police to inquire into immigration status.  An appeal is pending in the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals.  The precise impact of the Arizona decision will be decided by the Eleventh Circuit later this year.

The fight against these cruel self-deportation laws is not over, but the bad guys suffered a significant blow today.

Discuss :: (6 Comments)

President Obama's Remarks On Immigration Enforcement Directive

by: mooncat

Fri Jun 15, 2012 at 15:45:29 PM CDT

President Obama on the Homeland Security directive to exercise prosecutorial discretion "with respect to individuals who came to the United States as children."


As I said in the previous post, this new policy is reasonable middle ground on the issue.  Predictably, the right is going nuts.  

A reporter for the rightwing Daily Caller actually heckled President Obama during his remarks in the Rose Garden.  You can hear it at about 4:45 on the video.  Romney immigration advisor and HB56 architect (he was the one in the turkey blind) Kris Kobach (R) said the new guidelines are "deeply troubling" and "illegal."  Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) called the new policy "outrageous" and "political amnesty."  No reaction yet from HB56 mastermind, Scott Beason(R), but on twitter, Alabama Senator Bill Holtzclaw (R) also used the politically charged word "amnesty" which is being bandied about on Fox and right wing radio as well. 

As the President said, this is not amnesty -- it is not immunity from prosecution, it is not a pardon, it is not forgiveness, it is not a path to citizenship or legal status.

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There's An Undocumented Immigrant On the Cover of TIME Magazine

by: mooncat

Fri Jun 15, 2012 at 14:57:49 PM CDT

Time Magazine Immigration CoverActually, there's a whole bunch of undocumented immigrants on the cover of TIME.  Hold onto your tinfoil hats, they're taking over our newsstands!  Worse, the cover story was written by an undocumented immigrant, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas.  Will Alabama law enforcement raid newsstands to rid the state of these "illegal" magazines?

The cover of this week’s TIME Magazine features a young Alabama leader, Victor Palafox, among others in the immigrant-led movement for fair immigration reform and policies.  Palafox is the young man in the lower right corner of the cover.  The issue, which will hit newsstands Tuesday, features a personal essay, Not Legal, Not Leaving, written by Vargas who came out as undocumented in the New York Times last year. 

These "illegals" came to the US as children, look upon America as their home and plan to make a life here.  They're called Dreamers, and not just because they would benefit from the DREAM Act.  They dream of citizenship and full participation in the American Dream.  Unfortunately, there is no path to citizenship for these young people.  There is no way for them to "get legal, no matter how much they want to.

As of today, they will no longer face deportation.  The Department of Homeland Security issued a memorandum outlining new guidelines for exercising prosecutorial discretion in the case of "certain young people who were brought to this country as children and know only this country as home."  In the memo HS Secretary Janet Napolitano wrote that the nation's immigration laws were "not designed to be blindly enforced" and "nor are they designed to remove productive young people."   Amen.

The new rules apply to immigrants 30 and under who came to this country before the age of 16, are in school or who have completed high school, or are honorably discharged veterans, and have a clean record -- an estimated 800,000 young Americans-in-all-but-documentation.

Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund released this statement:

"This is huge.  As a result of today’s decision, hundreds of thousands of young people who are American in all but paperwork will have the opportunity to live freely, work legally, and contribute to the country they love.  The President is right to step up and protect these young people, because this expansion of existing policy is the only viable path to meaningful relief for Dreamers this year."

President Obama called this move "the right thing to do."

"Let's be clear, this is not amnesty, this is not immunity, this is not a path to citizenship, this is not a permanent fix," Obama said from the White House Rose Garden. "This is the right thing to do."

Well, there's still no path to actual citizenship for these young almost-Americans, but Obama has done a masterful job of finding a reasonable compromise on this issue.  This is middle ground.  We'll no longer be wasting valuable resources trying to deport productive residents, no one is being "rewarded with citizenship" for coming here illegally and -- best of all -- young people like Victor Palafox will no longer have to live in fear of being arrested and deported to a strange country.

This policy change isn't everything I want to see, but it's definite progress.

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Conservative Christians Denounce Alabama Style Immigration Approach

by: mooncat

Wed Jun 13, 2012 at 13:59:54 PM CDT

Republicans know they're on the far right edge of the fringe, hanging out in the chilly breeze, when they've lost James Dobson's Focus on the Family group.  That's where Republican hard-liners on immigration such as Scott Beason, Robert Bentley and ... yes, Mitt Romney ... find themselves today.

Tom Minnery, the senior vice president of policy for one evangelical group, Focus on the Family, said many of the 11 million to 12 million illegal immigrants should be free to “come out of the shadows” and “begin the process of restitution” leading to attaining legal residency.

Mr. Minnery spoke at a Capitol Hill news conference called to announce that more than 150 Christian evangelical leaders, including from the Southern Baptist Convention and the National Association of Evangelicals, were endorsing an overhaul of immigration policy.

The evangelical leaders expressed opposition to such notions as “self-deportation,” which Mr. Romney favored in a Republican debate and which urges strict enforcement of laws to encourage illegal immigrant workers to leave the country.

Laws like ours here in Alabama are intended to make life for undocumented immigrants so hellish --  racial profiling, questioning school kids, long lines, denial of water, power and sewer service, etc. -- that they will simply leave, thus saving the cost of deporting them.  It's a cruel approach to the immigration problem, and as we have said time and again, UNCHRISTIAN.  

And this is not an isolated incidence of conservatives trying to walk back the zenophobia.  Former Bush Attorney General Alberto Gonzales had this to say at an immigration conference (several prominent right-wing speakers) in Atlanta earlier this week:

“This Republican party – and not to make this partisan – has done a terrible job talking about this issue in a way that’s very anti-Hispanic, and anti-immigrant, and I think that’s very, very unfortunate," he said. "And whether or not Gov. Romney can recover from that remains to be seen.”

It's about time groups like Focus on the Family and others who claim to support Christian values begin to voice opposition to these laws. 

The remorse is political, too.  With large hispanic populations in several swing states, Republican strategists are beginning to voice concern about their party's obsession with publicly beating up on brown people.  Polls indicate the immigration hard-line hurts Romney's chances in several key states

Mitt Romney's stance in favor of Arizona's immigration law makes Hispanic voters in the key swing states of Nevada, New Mexico and Florida less likely to vote for him, says a new poll from Project New America and Public Policy Polling.

Alberto Gonzales says a flip-flop on immigration would be worth the political risk for Romney.  Jeb Bush says he needs "broader immigration ideas."  What does Mitt Romney say?
So far Mitt Romney is sticking by his previous statements -- Arizona's law should be "a model," the "answer is self-deportation" and his promise to veto the DREAM Act. 
Stay tuned, I sense another Romney flip-flop on the horizon.
Discuss :: (3 Comments)

SPLC Immigrant Abuse Hotline

by: mooncat

Thu Jun 07, 2012 at 11:37:39 AM CDT

Alabama Immigrant HotlineLast year Alabama Republicans enacted the nation's cruelest anti-immigrant law, HB56.  This year, they made it even worse by passing HB658.  Yesterday the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) announced the re-launch of a hotline where people can report problems and abuses they have experienced as a result of Alabama’s draconian anti-immigrant law.
Call 1-800-982-1620 to learn more about the law and share your stories of HB56/HB658 related problems/abuse.

“State lawmakers have callously refused to address the humanitarian crisis created by Alabama’s anti-immigrant law,” said Mary Bauer, legal director for the SPLC. “As we continue our fight against this unconstitutional law, we want to know first-hand the suffering it is inflicting on people across the state.”
The immigrant abuse hotline was created last September when HB56 began to be implemented. It received 1,000 calls detailing issues faced by immigrants, regardless of their status ... in the first week of operation!  It has now received more than 5,800 calls with stories illustrating the humanitarian and economic crisis created by the law. You can read some of these stories at www.splcenter.org/hb56.
This year's font of unintended consequences, HB658, includes a "scarlet letter" provision that requires the state “to post a quarterly list of the names of any undocumented alien who appears in court for a violation of state law, regardless of whether they were convicted.”  Get that?  Guilt or innocence doesn't matter; Alabama lawmakers want to stamp a big, red, I on all immigrants, even if they're acquitted.  This is an open invitation to vigilante groups -- hardly unknown in Alabama.  The KKK never had it so easy.

“This latest change in the law is nothing more than an attempt to bully and intimidate people, and serves only to encourage vigilantism,” Bauer said. “We encourage people to report problems they have faced because of the law – no matter how big or small.”
In addition to the SPLC, several other organizations provide staffing for the hotline.  They are the National Immigration Law Center, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and Latino Justice.

WTF is wrong with Alabama?  We should be better than this.

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Gov. Dr. Bentley Is Named To Hall Of Shame

by: mooncat

Thu May 31, 2012 at 19:33:12 PM CDT

Robert BentleyCongratulations are in order for our Governor.  Immigrants’ List (IL), a bipartisan political action committee, unveiled the inductees into their second annual Local Hall of Shame, including Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R)The list 'honors' the ten worst anti-immigrant local politicians in America. 

Yay, Alabama!  We're in the top -- or should I say the bottom -- 10 ... AGAIN!  HB56 author Sen. Scott Beason (R) made the list last year.

When you’re paying higher prices for food this fall – stretching your paycheck even further – you can thank Robert Bentley for costing you money.

Gov. Bentley signed Alabama’s notorious HB 56 (the "worst in the nation" anti-immigration law). It starts with "papers, please" mandates, and adds to it. He wants K-12 public schools to investigate the documentation of every student. A provision tries to stop the undocumented from attending public colleges or universities. It bans landlords from renting to the undocumented, requires every business to investigate employees, and churches have pushed back against a portion prohibiting the transporting or harboring of undocumented immigrants. Occupying the same governor’s mansion once occupied by George Wallace, Bentley is a sad reminder that we still have yet to overcome.

Immigrants’ List Board Member Ted Ruthizer said “Bentley’s worst-in-America immigration law is causing Alabama to become one of the least welcoming places in the U.S. for businesses to locate and create jobs. We’re a better country than this.”

Didn't somebody say "R" is for reverse progress?  It's certainly true with Gov. Dr. Bentley at the helm.

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Alabamans In The News - The Good & Bad

by: countrycat

Thu May 31, 2012 at 07:23:37 AM CDT

Two very different Alabama residents received attention in national publications recently.  Helen Rivas was honored by the Americas Quarterly as a "Hero of Social Inclusion" for her work on immigration.  State Senator Clay Scofield got a derisive mention in USA Today in a column co-written by the former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Birmingham's Helen Rivas was honored for her work with immigrants in Alabama.  The steering committee member for the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice explained the situation facing many:

Attitudes in the United States toward immigrants run in cycles. Right now, we are at a shamefully low point, where a few who speak of patriotism and love of country, of the rule of law and of our country’s founding principles, and of family values, have fallen prey to the cockamamie idea that some people do not deserve to be seen as fellow human beings and are not entitled to rights under the U.S. Constitution.

That must change. I am confident that we, as Alabamians and as a nation, will eventually beat back horrible laws such as HB 56, whether by changing hearts and minds or by political and legal action.

Meanwhile, another stupid Alabama law was also in the news a few weeks ago.  Writing in USA Today, two physicians ask the question "Where Are the Doctors?" in relation to increasing restrictions on birth control & abortion:

Nine states require doctors to perform ultrasound examinations on women seeking an abortion, and to encourage women to view the images. (This requirement was justified by Alabama Sen. Clay Scofield in his deeply patronizing comment, "This bill just allows them to see the child inside of them, so it's not just out of sight, out of mind.") Three of these states also require women to listen to a description of the fetus.
The unspoken assumption by state legislators seems to be that doctors will, of course, acquiesce with these new laws, that they are simply neutral agents who will comply with whatever the state orders. Physicians, however, have ethical commitments to patients that they cannot and should not be required by state law to set aside. 

Obviously, the authors have missed the writings & the leadership on this and other issues by our own Dr. Abston

Congratulations to Helen Rivas.  We need more people like her (and Dr. Abston) who are willing to speak out and work to help make our state a place people admire instead of a state that regularly provides fodder for comedians. 

Alabama has done the national laughingstock bit for too long.  It's time to aim for something better...

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Immigration Mega March, This Sunday In Montgomery

by: mooncat

Fri May 25, 2012 at 09:45:23 AM CDT

Human beings are not illegal

March for Your Rights From the Alabama State Capital to the Governor’s Mansion
On Sunday May 27th from 3:00 – 6:00 PM, the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice will lead a mega-march from the State Capital to the Governor’s Mansion.  Supporters are marching in protest of last week’s passage and signing of HB 658 – the latest version of Alabama’s racial profiling and anti-immigrant law.

Groups from all over the state including Albertville, Alexander City, Athens, Clanton, Decatur, Dothan, Greater Birmingham and Russellville will be coming to Montgomery to participate in the march against discrimination and racism.  “This fight isn’t just about immigration, as the legislature would have you believe,” said Benard Simelton, President of the NAACP Alabama State Conference.  “It’s about judging people on the color of their skin instead of the content of their heart.  This is not the kind of law we want in Alabama, this is not who we are.  We are one family, one Alabama marching together for justice.” 

WHO: Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice
WHAT: March for Justice
WHERE: Montgomery, AL - from State Capital to Governor’s Mansion
WHEN: Sunday May 27, 2012 – 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM
CONTACT INFORMATION: Salvador Cervantes (312) 593-6411

We all have skin in this game, no matter what color our skin is or how long ago our ancestors came to America.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Dr. Governor Bentley Secures His Place In History

by: mooncat

Sat May 19, 2012 at 09:12:01 AM CDT

Right next to George C. Wallace. 

At least George Corley Wallace had backbone, even when he was wrong.  Robert Bentley has all the spine of a wet noodle, especially when he's right.


On Thursday Governor Bentley said he wouldn't sign HB658, the even worse than HB56 immigration bill just passed by the Legislature:

Bentley has not signed the bill passed by the Legislature, known as HB 658. Cooper Shattuck, Bentley’s legal adviser, said the governor would withhold his signature until the Legislature passed amendments to the bill. If the amendments were satisfactory, he said, Bentley would sign HB 658 and then the bill modifying it.

“If I’m going to sign this bill, if I’m going to own this bill, I’m going to want the bill like I want it,” Bentley said.

Twenty-four hours later, Bentley signed HB658, no changes.  His concerns over asking school children about their parents' legal status, the scarlet letter provision requiring publication of names of those caught up by the immigration law and the "public relations problem" were not addressed ... but Bentley signed the even worse law anyway.

It's your law now, Dr. Governor.  You own it, just as much as the Republicans in the Legislature do.  Good luck explaining it on your industrial recruitment junkets.

Discuss :: (2 Comments)

In Scott We Trust

by: mooncat

Thu May 17, 2012 at 15:02:55 PM CDT

Would You Trust Scott Beason?There was a heartwarming moment in the Alabama Senate yesterday.

No, I don't mean the moment when members of the group Alabama’s Conscience fell to their knees, praying and singing, in front of the entrance to the Senate chambers.  I suspect watching members of Alabama's Conscience handcuffed and dragged away while shouting "An injustice to one is an injustice to all," just gave Alabama xenophobes a Chris Mathews style tingly thrill up their legs -- mostly because it's so hard to warm hearts of cold hard stone.

The heartwarming moment I'm talking about came later, after the arrest of the people praying at the Senate door, when Senators took up one last ill-conceived immigration bill ... and voted to once again put their trust in Scott Beason.

Senate Republicans' faith in Beason is really touching.  Here is a man who made national headlines -- NOT in a good way -- for saying Republicans should "empty the clip" against immigration.  He has a string of disasters to his credit.  He secretly recorded conversations with fellow legislators for the FBI, almost single handedly touching off the monumental BingoGate prosecution.  He then proceeded to sabotage that prosecution his horrible performance on the witness stand.  Remember "aborigines," anyone?  

Beason's Republican colleagues were so embarrassed by his BingoGate antics that they eventually stripped him of his chairmanship of the powerful Rules Committee.  But deep down, they still trust him.  God only knows why.

Last year Republicans turned to Beason to craft an immigration law.  He farmed that task out to a bigot in a turkey blind and brought back HB56, perhaps the most infamous law in the nation.  Scott Beason told his Senate buddies to vote for HB56 last year and, trusting in Scott, they did so, even though many later lamented the "unintended consequences" of the law and admitted they acted in haste had no idea what it would really do.  They put their faith in Scott Beason last year and he let them down.

So .... after Beason led them down the primrose path last year, who did Senate Republicans turn to yesterday, with only hours left to fix Beason's immigration mess?  In a moment of childlike faith, they turned to none other than ... Scott Beason!!! ... to get them out of the mess he got them into.

It was heartwarming, in a sad, sick sort of way, to see these adult Senators who had been repeatedly bit on the you-know-what by Scott Beason's bad advice give him yet another chance to screw them (and Alabama) over.  They took a bill which had been debated by the public and the legislature for months and, in an appalling leap of faith, swapped it out for a brand new 63 page substitute offered by Scott Beason.  A substitute widely held to be even worse than Beason's original and which I doubt most Senators had even read, let alone understood.  Only one Republican (Bill Holtzclaw) voted against the Beason substitution and one Democrat (Jerry Fielding) voted for it.  Fielding was also the only Democrat to vote for passage of the Beason substitution, which passed 20 to 7.

Childlike faith.  Seriously, I know 12 year olds who could do a more competent job of legislating than these jokers.

Republican Senators -- and their cohorts in the House -- may have faith in Scott Beason, but the Governor darned sure doesn't.  He's already vetoed Beason's latest monstrosity and told the legislature to do it over in a special session.

Will they keep the faith in Scott, or will Senate Republicans grow up and get it right this time?

Discuss :: (3 Comments)

Immigration Rights Supporters To Pray In State Senators' Offices, Bear Witness To Their Actions

by: mooncat

Wed May 16, 2012 at 08:29:27 AM CDT

Hundreds of immigration rights supporters will be bearing witness today as the Alabama Senate tries to make a bad law even worse.  Today is the last day of the Legislature's regular session and, barring a special session, it's the last chance this year for legislators to end Alabama's disgrace, the Beason-Hammon immigration law.  Or, as the NYT puts it ...

Alabamians should see on Wednesday, the last day of the legislative session, just how badly the Republicans who control the Statehouse want to continue down the path of anti-immigrant extremism.

The "tweak" bill, HB658, will either pass the Senate today or die.  Pray it dies, because in many ways this bill is even worse than what it purports to fix, the infamous HB56 inflicted on the state last year.  One of the authors of HB56, Scott Beason, is poised to substitute an even more draconian bill for the already bad HB658.

Immigration rights supporters will be at the State House all day, bearing witness into the night, praying for and with State Senators to end this abomination, or at least not make it even worse.


The Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice and its supporters will be gathering Wednesday, May 16th to bear witness to the last day of the 2012 Alabama legislative session.  With the possibility of eleventh hour immigration legislation including the controversial Beason substitute bill coming to the Senate floor ACIJ supporters plan to spend the entire day at the State House observing and praying in an attempt to appeal to the better nature of our legislators by offering them a vision of common purpose and hope for the future. 

Supporters will gather in front of the State House at 11:00 AM, stay through the day, and end with a vigil at 7:00 PM.

Good luck with appealing to the better nature of people like Scott Beason ... he's famous for calling African Americans "aborigines" and exhorting a Republican crowd to "empty the clip" against illegal immigration.

Beginning at noon, immigration rights supporters will conduct a small procession through the Senate offices and a few members of the clergy will offer prayers inside the Senators offices.  Zayne Smith, coordinator of the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice said the group will "ask our legislators to find the grace to defend our cherished American principles of justice, compassion, and tolerance for all people.  And to remind them that by standing up for the rights of all Alabamians we are celebrating the American spirit of freedom and fellowship."

It would be refreshing to think Alabama Legislators can find the grace to do the right thing here, but it's a stretch.  As Eric Fleischauer noted a couple of days ago, empathy is dead in AlabamaAppeals to Christian principles carry virtually no weight with our legislators ... even though they're always ready to quote a passage of Scripture (frequently out of context) to justify their own scheming, conniving and discriminating.

Lend your eyes and bear witness to the actions of our Legislature, beginning today, May 16, at 11:00 am at the Alabama State House, 11 South Union Street in Montgomery.

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

Immigration: HB56 Repeal Fails In Senate, Scott Beason Brings In A Ringer

by: mooncat

Fri May 11, 2012 at 11:00:00 AM CDT

Sen. Billy Beasley's motion to outright repeal Alabama's HB56 immigration law failed in the Senate yesterday.  The vote was 14 to 20.  All 20 "No" votes came from Republicans.  Independent Senator Harri Ann Smith voted "Yes," as did Republican Gerald Dial.  Every Democrat voted for Repeal.

In addition, Senator Scott Beason (one of the original authors of HB56) unveiled a new 63 page bill which he intends to substitute for HB658, the "tweak" bill to correct a few of the problems with the Beason-Hammon law.  Yes, Beason wants to jack up the name and drive a new bill under it, making it even worse than the law he pushed through last year.  According to the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice:

  • It is deaf to the cries of teachers, administrators and parents to leave schoolchildren out of this fight. It maintains the HB56 requirement that schools turn teachers and administrators into immigrant agents.
  • If adopted, law enforcement will have no choice but to arrest people who are not criminals and put them in our already over-crowded jails at taxpayer expense. This imposes another unfunded mandate on our law enforcement agencies, which are already strapped for funding to fight real crime.
  • It undermines public safety by failing to provide adequate protection for victims of crime after they cooperate with law enforcement, thereby discouraging them from reporting crime. Essentially, the message is "cooperate with police and we'll hand you over to immigration."
  • The substitute thumbs its nose at religious leaders by continuing to criminalize the good works of faith communities, including increasing the penalties for meeting basic human needs.
  • By continuing to prohibit landlords from renting to undocumented immigrants, it will make many families homeless, including those with US citizen children.
  • The substitute would write into law the anti-immigrant vigilantism already caused by HB 56. It introduces a Scarlet Letter provision that would require DHS to publish on its website the names and locations of undocumented immigrants who have appeared in state courts.

The Senate has not acted yet on HB658 and there is only one day left in the regular session.  At this point repeal is off the table.  The only possibilities left are for the Legislature to do nothing leaving HB56, warts and all, in place or to pass the "tweak" bill, HB658.  If the latter, the issue is whether it will be the original "tweak" or Beason's "tweak" for the worse.

There is no good outcome on the horizon for this year, but it's heartening that at least Democrats have figured out HB56 was a mistake and started voting accordingly.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Love Does No Harm to a Neighbor

by: Kathy

Sun May 06, 2012 at 12:00:18 PM CDT

On Thursday, six brave people knelt at the door of the Alabama Senate chamber to sing, pray, and ask again for the repeal of HB56. Because our esteemed legislators consider this peaceful but vocal dissent to be some sort of threat, they were handcuffed and removed. After they were taken, two Democratic Senators, Bobby Singleton and Quinton Ross, knelt in solidarity and demanded to be arrested too. (Video HERE)

Cooler heads later prevailed, and no charges were filed against the protesters. Rev. Fred Hammond, pastor of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Tuscaloosa, was one of those arrested. He wrote a wonderful response to Gov. Bentley's ridiculous assertion that Christians must always obey the law:

This statement of Bentley’s reveals that he has no understanding of his own faith tradition of Christianity. His own faith as a Baptist came about because people of conscience disobeyed the law. It was illegal to be of any other faith than Anglican when John Smyth declared his Baptist faith. But if Governor Bentley is correct that the Bible says you always obey the law, then his own faith is illegal...

Be sure to read the whole thing - and please share widely. It's hard to believe that an avowed Christian like Gov. Bentley could ignore the thousands of admonitions to care for the poor, the needy, the stranger in favor of cherry-picking one passage that ends thusly:

Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

There's nothing loving about HB56.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)
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