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Alabama anti-immigrant law creates crisis

Published Oct 24, 2011 10:17 PM

In another example of why the capitalist state can never really quell resistance, the multimillion-dollar poultry industry in Alabama was dealt a heavy financial blow in early October.

Immigrant workers, primarily Latino/a, completely shut down or scaled back operations in at least half a dozen chicken processing plants in Albertville, Ala. The work stoppages took place in the northeastern part of Alabama, the center of the state’s $2.7 billion chicken industry.

Not only was the poultry industry hurt, but parents refused to send their children to school that day, and stores and movie theatres also closed. At one elementary school, a principal reported that the number absent, normally 20 to 30 students, rose to 160 as part of the protest.

Alabama recently passed one of the worst anti-immigrant pieces of legislation in the U.S., described as “Arizona legislation on steroids” by even the corporate press. The plant shutdowns and miniboycott were in response to this legislation.

In late September, Alabama legislators had signed into law provisions allowing police to ask for immigration papers during routine traffic stops. The law also onerously required schools to learn the immigration status of students when they register. Furthermore, the law makes most contracts with immigrants unenforceable, jeopardizing housing, health care and other services for immigrants.

Just a few days after the legislation was passed, a mass exodus took place. Droves of Latino/as headed out of the state in fear. The first Monday after the vote more than 2,000 children did not attend school, as their parents feared the worst. The mass exodus of primarily Latino/a immigrants began just hours after a federal judge in Birmingham upheld most provisions of the law.

The Southern Poverty Law Center reported on Oct. 14 that a federal court blocked two major provisions of the law “while the constitutionality of the law is under determination.” Their report reads: “The U.S. Court of Appeals … injunction suspends the provision that chills children’s access to school by requiring school officials to verify the immigration status of children and their parents” as well as the provision that “criminalizes failure to register with the federal government and carry one’s ‘papers’ at all times.”

The statement continues: “We are pleased that the court blocked these damaging elements of the law. But portions of the law that remain in place will continue to exacerbate the humanitarian crisis in Alabama. In just two weeks that the law has been in effect, families have been fleeing the state, children have been pulled out of schools, and businesses have been put in jeopardy. This law sadly revisits Alabama’s painful racial past and tramples the rights of all its residents.”

Solidarity is answer to jobs crisis

The crisis in Alabama — like that in Georgia, Arizona and elsewhere — cannot be separated from the current economic crisis gripping workers around the world. The anti-immigrant attack is meant to terrorize a sector of the working class that the bosses and government believe is most vulnerable.

Republican legislators and Tea Party types said in interviews after the mass exodus from Alabama that, while it was sad that people were fearful, this law would help provide jobs for workers born in this country.

This is merely a demagogic and racist attempt to divide the working class. All signs demonstrate that the capitalist unemployment crisis is here to stay and no amount of deportations or fear mongering will provide jobs.

The only solution to the jobs crisis is a mighty struggle, like that launched by the occupation of Wall Street, where workers born here join with workers born elsewhere to demand jobs for all, without regard to documentation.

The recent righteous shutdown of poultry plants in Alabama was a great example of the mighty force that the workers and oppressed have at their fingertips. This force of workers in struggle needs only to grow and multiply by the thousands.