Once more the first Sunday in May – Immigrant Rights Sunday – comes around finding millions of immigrants without rights, fleeing draconian state laws and leaving behind crops rotting in the fields for lack of laborers. In the past year we have seen state legislations that have created the most untenable situation for our immigrant sisters and brothers.
UCC minister Rev. Noel Anderson is Church World Service Grassroots Coordinator for Immigrants’ Rights. He writes:
“Alabama’s House Bill 56 is the harshest anti-immigrant legislation yet to pass in the United States. Alabama is now the epicenter of the immigration debate.
Alabama’s HB 56 is a copycat law of AZ SB 1070, but worse because it mandates that public schools check students’ citizenship status, and it criminalizes giving rides, “harboring”, or engaging in any contract with undocumented people.
“Everything has become more difficult. Because of this law we have problems with work, housing, transportation, education and health care,” said Trini (last name withheld), from Tuscaloosa, Ala. “This anti-immigrant law is affecting so many families, including mine.”
The impact on the faith community has been particularly poignant in a “Bible Belt” state that has a church on every corner. Laura Gonzalez, a local organizer in Athens, AL reports that her Pentecostal church, which was predominately Latino, had completely disbanded after the passing of HB 56.
"After celebrating a Spanish-language mass, a Catholic priest told me that attendance is down by about 25 percent. Many church-based English as Second Language courses have been abandoned, while congregations from mainline to conservative encountered a serious challenge to their religious freedom from HB 56’s attempt to criminalize “harboring and transporting” – which, thankfully, has now been temporarily blocked by the courts.”
Other states, like Mississippi, have similar laws waiting to be passed by their legislators. The message is quite clear: if the Congress of the United States does not pass an immigration reform bill, the States will continue enacting legislations, mostly without regard for the fate of the undocumented workers and their children.