What do many people misunderstand about Alabama

Alabama Control Act: "Ethnic Search"

Alabama HB 56 allows identity checks to be carried out on suspicion. Numerous church, human rights and trade union groups protest.

"One Heart, One Alabama". Protest against House Bill 56 in Alabama. Image: dapd

WASHINGTON taz| On September 29, 2011, thousands of children in Alabama failed to attend school. Her parents, paperless immigrants from Latin America, had fled the state in the deep south of the United States. Because on that day, the most restrictive immigration law in the United States came into force.

House Bill Number 56, or HB 56 for short, allows the police to carry out identity checks whenever they suspect there has been a violation of immigration rules. In addition, the law criminalizes any service for “illegals”: ​​from transport in vehicles to employment, the award of social benefits to the rental of living space.

Alabama's Republican Governor Robert Bentley had campaigned with the promise to radically persecute "illegals". That saves public money, creates jobs and improves security, so the reasoning. That is how the majority of the MPs in the US state parliament saw it. Numerous church, human rights and trade union groups are now protesting against the "search and persecution according to ethnic criteria" authorized by HB 56. Several US courts are dealing with individual provisions. But the essential parts apply.

The economy in Alabama, where less than four percent of immigrants live, arose around cotton plantations where slaves had to work. Racial segregation persisted here until the second half of the 20th century. But Act HB 56 is not a product from Alabama, but part of a US-wide offensive. It comes from Kris Kobach, the Republican politician and lawyer who also wrote the radical immigration law in Arizona. SB 1070 has not yet come into force due to judicial reviews. Kobach, once a critic of the anti-apartheid movement, is now State Secretary in Kansas and supports Mitt Romney's presidential candidacy.

Before and immediately after HB 56 came into effect, immigrants in Alabama sought legal assistance from the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama (HICA). They want to make sure that if they are arrested, people they trust have custody of their children. In the following autumn weeks, farmers in Alabama had problems finding harvest workers for the first time. In addition, numerous immigrants closed their operations in Alabama.

One of the first victims of the new over-zeal towards foreigners in Alabama was a Mercedes manager. When he was checked in his rental car in November, he only had his German ID with him. The police immediately arrested him.

In a first cost-benefit analysis, the University of Alabama economist Samuel Addy stated in January that the law was “quite expensive” - and “reduced the economic volume of Alabama”. The absence of immigrants would neither create new jobs nor improve security.