Washington – Alabama's harsh immigration law can't be fixed and needs to be scrapped, a member of the state legislature said Monday.
Sen. Billy Beasley, a Democrat who has introduced a bill to overturn the law, commented in a conference call organized by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which has just released a report on the effects of HB 56.
"It's ridiculous to think you can solve problems this big with a few tweaks," Beasley said. "This law has created a world of hurt for our state. And this report shows HB 56 is just a mean-spirited law - period."
"I don't see how any Alabamian can read these stories and say they support this sort of pain and suffering. It simply doesn't reflect our values. We must repeal this law," Beasley said.
His bill seeking to scrap HB 56 will get a hearing next week in the Alabama Senate's judiciary committee, but the senator acknowledged the measure faces an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled legislature.
The SPLC, part of a coalition that last year filed a federal suit to overturn HB 56, will take part in Thursday's hearing before the 11 U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.
In its report, Alabama's Shame: HB 56 and the War on Immigrants, the SPLC describes a "xenophobic climate" in which a Latino surname or appearance is enough to make anyone subject to suspicion.
The document is based on testimonies from some of the 5,200 calls to a telephone hotline the SPLC set up last September to gauge the law's impact on Alabama's Hispanic community.
One incident involved a young girl who was turned away from a clinic because of her immigration and later required emergency surgery, while a family with kids spent 40 days without running water in their home because their "papers" were not in order.
In another case, a day laborer asking to be paid for her work was confronted by a gun-wielding boss "who declared he didn't have to pay her because she didn't have 'papers.'"
The law, according to SPLC Legal Director Mary Bauer, "has given a nod and a wink to the worst prejudices harbored by some residents. If lawmakers are unwilling to repeal HB 56 - knowing this is the type of misery they have created - we can only assume they intended to inflict this cruelty all along."
HB 56, which is also being challenged in the courts by the Justice Department, has hurt the economy of Alabama, a state with a budget deficit of more than $400 million and a shortage of workers, especially in the farm sector.