Revolution #237, June 26, 2011
Alabama Passes New Fascist Anti-Immigrant Law
On June 9, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley signed a viciously repressive anti-immigrant law. This law, Alabama House Bill 56 or HB 56, is an all encompassing measure. It is called an “omnibus bill” meaning it intends, in the words of one right-wing journalist, to address “almost every conceivable problem ‘illegals’ cause.”
Among its many fascist measures, Alabama HB 56:
- requires schools to determine immigration status of “suspect children”
- prevents undocumented immigrant youth from attending public colleges and universities
- requires employers to use the federally created “E-verify” system to determine the immigration status of all employees
- makes it a criminal offense to “knowingly rent living quarters to an ‘illegal alien’”
- requires proof of citizenship from all voters
- mandates that police check immigration status of everyone they stop if they have a “reasonable suspicion” that the person is in the country “illegally”
- prevents the establishment of “sanctuary cities” (there are none in Alabama)
- allows police to jail people of “undetermined status” until a determination is made, and to charge them with “trespassing,” which is a criminal offense in Alabama
- makes transporting an undocumented immigrant, even to a doctor or hospital, a criminal offense
HB 56 faces legal challenges. Cecilia Wang, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Immigrants Rights Project, said that “By signing this bill into law, Gov. Bentley has codified official discrimination in the State of Alabama. We will take action to keep this law from going into effect to ensure that the civil rights and liberties of all Alabamans are protected.” But the State of Alabama is moving to put HB 56 into effect on September 1. If the law stands against appeal, it will mean an unprecedented, pervasive, round-the-clock level of terror will be directed against all immigrants in Alabama, and anyone who looks or talks “different” according to the standards of any Alabama cop.
Version 1.0: Arizona
The police state measures embodied in HB 56 were modeled on the hated Arizona State Bill 1070. SB 1070 was signed into law by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer in April 2010, and marked a major national escalation in the persecution of immigrants. As the July 2010 deadline for SB 1070’s implementation neared, protests erupted involving tens of thousands of people who walked out of schools, occupied government offices, and marched and rallied in Phoenix, Tucson, and other Arizona cities. These protests convulsed the state for several months. Prominent artists denounced the law, and many groups and individuals called for boycotts of Arizona. Countless immigrants fled the state as July approached.
In late July 2010, some of the most notorious sections of SB 1070 were temporarily enjoined (prevented from becoming law) in a federal court ruling. The enjoined sections included the requirement that all police officials question anyone they stopped about that person’s immigration status if they had a “reasonable suspicion” that the person was in the U.S. “illegally.” But nine major, highly repressive sections of SB 1070 became state law, upheld in federal court.
Since then, the relentless, heartless repression against immigrants has intensified throughout the country.
A Storm of Repressive Legislation Sweeps the Country
A wave of harshly repressive, overtly racist, and sadistically cruel law-making swept through the country. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, “in the first quarter of 2011, state lawmakers introduced 52 immigration-related omnibus bills in 30 states,” and a total of 1,538 “immigration-related bills” have been introduced so far this year. Arizona’s hated SB 1070 became a model for legislation in several states, including Georgia, Utah, South Carolina, Oklahoma, and Indiana. But none of these laws were more extreme than Alabama’s.
Kris Kobach, Secretary of State for Kansas and former law professor at the University of Missouri, has been a major figure in drafting many of the anti-immigrant laws. He wrote most of Arizona’s SB 1070. He also played a key role in crafting Alabama’s HB 56, which includes many parts of the Arizona law, but is even more repressive. After Governor Bentley signed HB 56, Kobach gloated, “Alabama is now the new No. 1 state for immigration enforcement. I have worked closely with Senate and House leadership (in Alabama) to ensure that the Alabama law is drafted carefully. It will pass judicial muster if the ACLU and the open-borders crowd decide to take Alabama to court.”
Many politicians say that a major reason for this surge of reactionary legislation on the state level is that the “federal government isn’t doing its job”; that is, in these politicians’ view, the Obama administration is not doing enough to crack down on immigration and immigrants. In fact, the Obama administration has aggressively increased repression against immigrants—a fact which Obama proudly trumpets. In El Paso in May, Obama said: “over the last two years … we have strengthened border security beyond what many believed was possible.... The Border Patrol has 20,000 agents—more than twice as many as in 2004. … We tripled the number of intelligence analysts working at the border. I’ve deployed unmanned aerial vehicles to patrol the skies from Texas to California. … Beyond the border, we’re going after employers who knowingly exploit people and break the law. And we are deporting those who are here illegally.”
Deportations during the Obama administration have risen by 10 percent compared to the last year of George W. Bush’s presidency, to a total of 279,035 during 2010. Despite Obama’s claim to the crowd in El Paso that “we’re focusing our limited resources and people on violent offenders and people convicted of crimes,” the government’s own data shows that less than one in six of the people deported in 2010 had been convicted of crimes classified as “violent,” and 51 percent had no criminal record at all.
High Stakes for the U.S. Rulers
The savage, relentless exploitation of millions of immigrants, documented and undocumented, is essential to the functioning of the system of capitalism-imperialism in this country and to its dominant standing in the world. Millions of immigrants work in the shittiest, most back- breaking, low paying and sometimes no-paying jobs: in farms and orchards, in factories and warehouses, in hotels and restaurants, on the golf courses and country clubs of the well-to-do. Their exploitation—the profits reaped from their labor—has been a key component of U.S. economic functioning. As Alan Greenspan, the former head of the Federal Reserve, testified to Congress in 2007, “there is little doubt that unauthorized, that is, illegal, immigration has made a significant contribution to the growth of our economy.”
There is also much at stake for the imperialists internationally. Maintaining a semblance of stability in Mexico and Central America—countries dominated, pillaged, and dismembered by the U.S. for over 150 years—is at the core of U.S. strategic, global interests. Immigration to—and working in—the U.S. has long been seen by the powers-that-be as a “safety valve” to the building pressure in the societies of Mexico and Central America. Not only does the money sent home by immigrants work to alleviate the tremendous economic suffering, but the so-called promise of a better life in the U.S. becomes a “way out” of unbearable conditions for millions.
But all this poses intractable problems for the U.S. ruling class. The 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country are also seen as a potential source of instability and “disloyalty.” And the entire U.S. ruling class wants to further develop and strengthen its means of controlling and “driving out of the shadows” the undocumented population—even as there are intense differences at the top over how to carry this out.
The Obama administration has been developing a brutal program of “immigration control” that relies on savage high tech and militarized control of the U.S.-Mexico border, record levels of deportations, penalties aimed at a small number of employers who hire the undocumented, and a centralized effort to enter everyone with a job in this country in a government data base (the “E-Verify” program).
But to the dominant forces in the Republican Party, and to all the racist, fascist factions in the various “Tea Party” groupings, even this is not enough to maintain stability and “glue” this society together. As we said in an article in Revolution last year, “The heart of the program of these fascists is to restore or return to that original social contract—with its male supremacy and white supremacy—which they associate with a time when the U.S. was ‘riding high.’ In fact, many even wax nostalgic about the Confederacy, when the only reason for its existence was to defend slavery. In their view, if it takes establishing a fascist regime to do it, so be it.” (“Stop the System’s Fascist Attacks on Immigrants,” Revolution #208, July 25, 2010)
Resist the Fascist Anti-Immigrant Laws
Starting on September 1, school children in Birmingham and Montgomery will be prevented from enrolling in school because their parents don’t have the proper papers. Landlords in Mobile and Tuscaloosa will be required to verify the immigration status of prospective renters, and to deny a home to anyone who didn’t pass their scrutiny. Every cop in the state will be authorized to use the pretext of “reasonable suspicion” to demand citizenship or immigration papers from people they stop—and everyone knows this means people with certain skin colors or speaking with certain types of accents.
This fascist Alabama law is an ominous and dangerous escalation that is extremely harmful to the people. Earlier this year, when an anti-immigrant bill was passed in Georgia, it was met with broad resistance. (“Georgia: Thousands Protest Ugly Anti-Immigrant Law,” Revolution #231, May 1, 2011, online only at http://revcom.us/a/231/georgia-en.html) And, in March, Alabamans protested against HB 56. Such resistance in opposition to all these fascist laws, and all the assaults upon immigrants, must grow, urgently and widely, among all sections of the people, immigrant and native born alike.
Our movement for revolution is an internationalist movement—one that stands for, and fights for, the equality of all nations.
An article in Revolution (“Vicious Attack on Immigrants Continues,” Revolution #209, August 15, 2010) summing up the political battle against Arizona’s SB 1070 applies even more compellingly today: “At stake here is what kind of world we want, and are willing to fight for, and to live in. Will it be a world where people are hunted down and persecuted, separated from their families and loved ones, driven from place to place, penned up and displayed for public humiliation, forced to trek across burning deserts without food or water in a desperate struggle to find a menial job? The intense conflicts between different sets of oppressors can contribute to bringing about rare opportunities for revolution. But the terms of the divide within the U.S. ruling class cannot set the limits of how all this will be resolved.”
Latino workers from around the state, civil libertarians, activists, and members of the state legislature's Black Democratic Caucus rallied against the Alabama anti-immigrant law at the State Capitol in Birmingham on March 10. One minister told the crowd, "We must not allow Alabama to reverse its progress against racism." Protesters carried signs saying "What does 'reasonably suspicious' look like?" and "Stop Juan Crow."
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