Saturday, July 09, 2011

Clergy Group Among Plaintiffs Challenging Alabama's New Law On Illegal Immigration

The Southern Poverty Law Center announced yesterday that it has led a group of civil rights organizations in filing a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of HB56, a strong state law enacted last month by the Alabama legislature to combat illegal immigration. The complaint (full text) in Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama v.  Bentley, (D AL, filed 7/8/2011), contending that the state law is invalid on several constitutional grounds, was brought on behalf of a number of organizational and individual plaintiffs, including the Greater Birmingham Ministries (GBM) and several clergy. Here are allegations from the complaint regarding GBM's interest in the matter:
54.... GBM serves approximately 3,000 families per year... by providing free non-perishable foods and fresh vegetables and fruits; free clothes, including clothes for school-age children; and financial support in the form of rental payments, utility bill payments, bus passes, and prescription drug payments. GBM does not have the need or capacity to ask for immigration status from its clients before offering them services. Under HB 56, GBM fears that this policy may lead them to be prosecuted for encouraging undocumented immigrants to stay in Alabama or for aiding in harboring and transporting them due to paying for their rent, utilities, and bus passes.
55. Additionally, GBM’s members have expressed this fear of prosecution since they often directly provide transportation to undocumented members of their congregations for vacation Bible school for school-age children and for healthcare and childcare.
56. Undocumented individuals from GBM congregations have also expressed concern that their children may not be able to attend school if they have to register with their child’s public school under HB 56. These members fear that their immigration status will be sent to the federal government and lead them to being detained and possibly deported under HB 56.
57. GBM is also concerned that it will soon have to divert organizational and financial resources because immigrants from their congregations are already leaving Alabama due to HB 56. GBM relies on members for volunteers, and if its congregations no longer have as many members, GBM will have to decrease the number of services it provides due to the decreasing volunteer base that GBM draws from.
58. Because GBM is publicly opposed to HB 56, it is likely that member congregations that do not agree with GBM will limit, or cease, their support of GBM, which would also lead to a diversion of resources....