HB 56, Alabama’s anti-immigrant racial profiling law, reminds us of Alabama’s history of racism and segregation. During the civil rights movement, the federal government had to step in to stop the state government from acting on unconstitutional laws and policies based on prejudice and discrimination. Although the Obama Administration, civil rights organizations, and faith groups are currently challenging HB 56 in court, many of its harmful provisions are now in effect.
Alabama’s HB 56 encourages racial profiling by allowing police to question anyone they stop, detain, or arrest about his or her immigration status if the have "reasonable suspicion" that the person is undocumented. This means that police must base this suspicion on a person's appearance, leading to targeting on the basis of perceived race, ethnicity, national origin, or English proficiency; in other words suspicion of undocumented status is based on racial profiling. Reports from Alabama, as well as recent data on the Secure Communities program reveal that Latinos are the group most affected by racial profiling through immigration enforcement laws and programs.
The End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA) would outlaw racial profiling in Alabama and across the country, and allow victims of racial profiling to take action against the law enforcement agencies that unfairly targeted them. ERPA, S.1670, has been introduced in the Senate by Maryland’s Senator Ben Cardin.
In addition to allowing police to question anyone they stop and suspect of being undcoumented, the HB 56:
· Requires police to transport any person arrested for driving without a license to a magistrate and to check the person’s immigration status.
· Allows undocumented immigrants to be held in jails without bond.
· Requires law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of all people who are jailed.
· Makes it a crime for undocumented immigrants to do business in the state, invalidating contracts such as those to provide water and gas, and home leases.
The End Racial Profiling Act (ERPA) of 2011, S. 1670, if enacted, would block the ability of law enforcement in Alabama to engage in racial profiling under HB 56 authority by:
· Making it unlawful under federal law for state, local, or Indian tribal law enforcement in Alabama to profile based on race, religion, ethnicity or national origin;
· Creating a private right of action for victims of profiling, which would allow individuals in Alabama who believe they have been subject to racial profiling to sue the agent or agency they believe to have violated ERPA;
· Allowing the United States Attorney General to withhold grants from Alabama law enforcement agencies that are not complying with ERPA; and
· Requiring training on racial profiling for law enforcement agents in Alabama, as well as data collection and monitoring mechanisms such as meaningful procedures for responding to racial profiling complaints.
In Alabama, a diverse, multiracial movement of civil rights, faith-based, immigrant rights, and student organizations is building against HB 56 and the racial profiling and humanitarian crisis it is causing—join the fight. Whether you are in Alabama or acting in solidarity, take action against racial profiling today!
· Take action to support the state-wide campaign to repeal HB 56, follow the campaign on Facebook, and on Twitter use #crisisAL.
· Urge your Senators to sponsor ERPA: Send them an e-mail here.
· Learn more about ERPA by visiting: ERPA Resource Materials.
· Write a blog or op-ed about HB 56, racial justice, and racial profiling.
· Share this blog and this 1-pager connecting ERPA to HB 56.
Image: A part of the official patch of the Alabama State Troopers, which features a confederate flag.