An open letter to Gov. Robert BentleyPublished 6:14pm Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Dear Governor Bentley:
This is a critical time in Alabama. It calls for leadership of the highest order, which includes vision, courage, strength and boldness. I call upon you to provide that leadership.
Alabama’s immigration law is a growing weight pressing down on our economy, our government and our people. It is adversely impacting every Alabamian whether or not they know it. In my opinion, the damage will multiply with each passing moment.
Governor Bentley, I believe that the only course to stop the multiplying damage is to repeal HB56, the Alabama immigration law that has placed this state in danger. Tweaking the law will not stop the damage. Even significant changes will not stop the damage. The only course is to repeal HB56.
As you know, the Alabama immigration law was designed to be the toughest in the nation. It is the toughest in the nation, but it is also the worst in the nation. In trying to make the lives of undocumented immigrants intolerable, HB56 is making all our lives worse HB56 has become a worldwide symbol of what’s wrong with Alabama. In one fell swoop, this law dredges up Alabama’s tortured racial past and has plastered it across media headlines. It taps into things from our past that we have struggled mightily to overcome. We all know too well how economic development and job growth in Alabama were hindered in the 1950s and 1960s because of that image. Alabama is again facing those same perceptions half a century later. HB56 is adversely impacting all our lives. Our children are afraid because they may have to prove citizenship to attend school. Auto owners have to stand in line for hours to secure tags. The law requires every voter prove his or her citizenship. Foreign businessmen are being arrested and cited for violation of the law, including a German with Mercedes and a Japanese with Honda.
Religious leaders are caught between jail and Hell, with one priest already having been wrongly arrested. Our law enforcement is endangered because their liability has increased while their resources are decreasing. Motorists are unprotected because liability insurance policies held by undocumented immigrants are voidable even after an accident and even if the policy is paid in full. The law expressly carves out an exception that makes it legal for Alabamians to hire undocumented immigrants as domestic workers in their homes or as landscapers for their yards.
But this same law makes it illegal for those maids, nannies and yard workers to drive to work, secure liability insurance, get vaccinations and more. Farmers are struggling because their crops are rotting in the fields since workers have fled to other states. Many have already lost one crop and cannot survive financially if they lose another. Agriculture is the largest industry in Alabama.
Businesses are fearful because affidavits are required for each entity doing business in Alabama. Certain companies in Alabama may have to file up to 75,000 affidavits annually. Businesses can have their licenses suspended for one minor violation, which would put some out of business, costing the jobs of everyone they employ. Government employees are fearful because they face liability and are being harassed by citizens frustrated by HB56. Immigrants who want to leave Alabama are unable to sell their homes or other possessions because they cannot enter into contracts.
Alabama’s large tourism industry, which already took a hit with the BP oil spill, will be hit even harder without action.
Governor, it takes vision to see the disastrous impacts that await us because of HB56 just as it takes vision to see the continued growth and development in Alabama if the law is repealed. I know you are capable of envisioning both. It takes courage to do what is right regardless of the political consequences.
However, I predict the political consequences of acting will ultimately be positive rather than negative. It takes strength to stand up to those who feed on our fears and are hell bent on taking
Alabama backward instead of forward. It takes boldness to stand strongly for full repeal rather than making changes in the law that will not end the rampant damage HB56 has unleashed. Even if there are provisions that you feel strongly must be addressed in Alabama law, they should be enacted in a new law rather than retained in HB56.
Governor Bentley, if you employ vision, courage, strength and boldness, Alabamians will stand with you. Alabama will be the better for it, and you will be hailed far and wide for your leadership. Please lead us now so Alabama will move forward rather than backwards.