Can you imagine politics without feuds? Can you envision a life without enemies, where all humans live in peace and perfect harmony, where everyone respects and embraces differences; a place where people keep the channels of dialogue open; a place devoted to building bridges and not barriers, free of propaganda? The thing is, sadly, I cannot.
Alabama has announced a new enemy: immigrants. The Republican led state legislature is following in the footsteps of Georgia and Arizona in proclaiming the undocumented enemy number one. This comes as no surprise. Apparently, Alabama prefers to invent an enemy to divert attention away from its abysmal economic performance rather than create a recovery plan to help the state and its people prosper. For the record, I am not an Alabama basher and have nothing whatever to gain by criticizing the state legislature. Nor am I looking to stir up a North – South culture war. I am originally from the South, but have spent most of my adult life in the Northeast. I grew up in a neighboring state that rivals Alabama in a bad way on issues of poverty, unemployment, and spending on education. And while my home state may be more immigrant friendly than Alabama, it was once a place where neither immigrants nor blacks felt welcomed.
“Illegal” immigrants in Alabama are toiling in mainly agricultural jobs with poor working conditions, the kind of jobs the 10% unemployed of the state don’t want. Farming concerns depend on cheap migrant labor and were they all to be deported, I’d hate to think what would happen to the fruit, vegetable and cotton harvest. But even worse is the thought of what would happen to the undocumented immigrant whose family depends on the money sent home. The dollars sent home help support the fragile economies of many a country south of our borders.
Interestingly, Alabama, in the heart of the Christian Bible belt, has tried for years to institute prayer in the public schools blurring the lines between church and state. To reject a vulnerable immigrant class of hard working, resourceful people who contribute to the economy and their communities in positive ways, is to forget that we are a nation of immigrants. This anti-immigrant law in Alabama is decidedly unchristian and unconstitutional.