Alabama Federal Judge Calls State Immigration Law "Civil Rights Crisis"

Civil rights veteran U. W. Clemon says that restrictive immigration laws are reversing decades of advocacy.

Posted: 11/18/2011 04:48 PM EST
Filed Under Alabama, immigration

(Photo: Courtesy encyclopediaofalabama.org)

African-American voices are increasingly joining the choir of advocates who say that Alabama’s controversial immigration law, HB 56, is one of the largest attacks to civil rights since segregation.

 

The latest to join the fight against HB 56 is federal judge and civil rights veteran U. W. Clemon, who says that the law is not just a problem for immigrants, but a critical civil rights issue.  

 

"We are at a point in American history where powerful forces are determined to turn back the clock on the tremendous progress we made in civil rights over the last 100 years," Clemon told the ACLU. "And they've come very far in doing so."

 

Clemon, whose career as an advocate has spanned many decades and included experiences such as marching in demonstrations alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and becoming the state's first African-American federal judge, says that among all civil rights issues he has seen in recent years, HB 56 stands out as the most offensive and requires swift action.

 

"The Alabama immigration law was designed to be the most severe, the harshest immigration law in the country," he said. "The design, purpose of it was to drive out people who don't look like us. In this instance, it turned out to be Hispanics. Many of them, unfortunately, are American citizens, just as American as you and I."

 

Last month in Birmingham, in a rally titled, Alabama United: One Family, One Alabama, Latino and African-American community members banded together to build consensus against HB 56.

 

Among other provisions, the law requires state and local law enforcement officials to verify a person’s immigration status during routine traffic stops or arrests if they feel “a reasonable suspicion” exists that the person is in the country illegally. It also criminalizes the “willful failure” of a person in the country illegally to carry federal immigration papers.

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