Last year, the state of Alabama passed HB56, one of the most extreme state-level anti-immigrant laws in the country. HB56 is wreaking havoc in Alabama, and children and youth are especially hard hit. The law makes it a crime for an undocumented immigrant to conduct any business with government agencies, increases racial profiling, and spreads fear through communities. The law attempts to make life in Alabama unbearable for immigrants, and in many ways it is succeeding.
The impact on children and youth is broad. Here are some examples:
- Many immigrant parents have taken their children out of school because they are afraid that they might be detained and deported when dropping off or picking up their children. And new students are being prevented from attending school if they don’t have immigration papers. Education is every child’s right, but the law is preventing many children from going to school.
- Many immigrant parents are having trouble continuing to rent apartments where they have lived for many years, because they are being asked for immigration papers by their landlords. Many children don’t have safe and secure housing.
- Some children aren’t getting the food stamps that they’re entitled to, just because their parents don’t have papers. Many children are going hungry and not getting the nutrition they need.
- In some parts of the state, families have had their water supply cut off because they don’t have papers.
- Many parents are afraid that they’ll be stopped and asked for papers while driving. This makes it hard for parents to get groceries, take their children to the doctor, and do many other basic things to be able to take care of their families.
- The law increases deportations and detentions. Many families have mixed immigration status, and this means that families are being torn apart as some members are detained while others are left behind. This can lead to large numbers of children entering the foster care system.
And the list goes on. For explanations of some of the effects of HB56 on children and families, go to: http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2011/11/alabama_top10_families.html.
One of the most devastating impacts of HB56 is the climate of fear it creates. As various provisions of HB56 are held up in the courts while others are put into practice, confusion reigns. The law is so open to interpretation that anyone can feel entitled to act as an immigration agent. The climate of hatred legitimized by the law leads to vigilante attacks, from children taunting others on the playground to immigrants being held up at gunpoint.
Immigrants and other communities are fighting back against HB56 and all anti-immigrant attacks, but they need to know that they are not alone.
We can help break through the climate of fear by letting the children and youth of Alabama know that we are paying attention, and we are supporting them. Please encourage the children and youth in your life to write or draw their wishes for the children of Alabama. We Belong Together will deliver these letters to young people in Alabama when we travel there at the end of March.
We have prepared two activity guides: one for 7-10 year-olds, and one for ages 11 and up. These include background information on the issues, suggestions of how to discuss them with young people, and an explanation of the kinds of letters we hope to receive.
Please mail in all letters by March 13 to:
Children's Wishes for Alabama
1322 18th Street NW
Washington, DC 20036
Please include your name and email, so we can be sure you receive a report-back
For more information:
For 100 reasons why HB56 is a disaster for the state of Alabama, go to:
For more information on HB56 and the campaign to repeal it, go to:
For one impression on the impact of HB56, go to: