Alabama faith leaders urge repeal of HB 56

In a full-page ad in today’s, April 26, 2012, Montgomery Advertiser, more than 200 faith leaders from across Alabama urged legislators to repeal HB 56 and not to support HB 658, both measures addressing illegal immigration.

“Everyone one I’ve spoken to agrees there is an immigration problem, but this law represents archaic thinking and is so reminiscent of Jim Crow laws that it really takes us back,” said the Rev. Matthew Doss of Huntsville’s St. Thomas Episcopal Church, one of the signers.

“They have structured the law so that it is absolutely untenable in terms of trying to provide assistance to a human being and giving them a chance in life,” Doss said. “Alabama has the opportunity to rescind this law and to be more progressive in how we respond to these problems rather than so xenophobic and racist in our reaction.”

While some lawmakers have also criticized the law, others support keeping HB 56 essentially intact.

Rep. Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, has filed the bill to make revisions to the original immigration law, which he also sponsored.

Hammon told members of the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee during a hearing April 11, 2012, that he thought Alabama’s existing law already was the best in the nation, but that the proposed revisions would make the law clearer, easier to enforce and less cumbersome on legal citizens.

The open letter from faith leaders published in the advertisement calls on legislators to “oppose HB658 and any other punitive rewrites of the hateful HB56.” It is signed by religious leaders across the spectrum, including Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Catholics, Episcopalian, African Methodist Episcopal and non-denominational Christians as well as Jewish and Muslim leaders.

“Our faith compels us to stand against this law that causes children to be fearful of going to school, makes it a criminal offense for someone to work and provide for their family, that splits apart families and criminalizes those who would assist people in need simply because they lack immigration status,” the letter says.

“Every person in Alabama has been harmed by this law. Repeal is the most honorable and noble action that our legislators can take,” Doss said.

The letter goes on to ask state legislators to call on Alabama’s Congressional delegation to push for comprehensive federal immigration reform at the national level. [More]