Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Groups Unite to Fight Immigration Law

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

Groups Unite to Fight Immigration Law

Article excerpt

TUSCALOOSA | Hispanic grass-roots community leaders and supporters from across Alabama and throughout the nation gathered in Tuscaloosa on Saturday to form a stronger and more educated front in their fight against HB56, the immigration law passed by the Alabama Legislature in June.

The all-day meeting was held at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Tuscaloosa and allowed representatives from several Alabama communities to meet one another and find out how other groups are fighting the law.

The meeting was hosted by the group Somos Tuskaloosa, which is Spanish for "We are Tuscaloosa." It was organized by Somos in coordination with the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice.

"By bringing together leaders from across the state, we're trying to coordinate our efforts," said Zayne Smith, an coalition's coordinator. "We want to train, educate and inform these people so when they go back to their own communities they can do the same.

"There are a lot of people around the state that are angry and upset about HB56, so we need to fuel that energy in the same direction."

Supporters of the law, considered to be one of the toughest in the nation, say they were forced to act because of the federal government's failure to enforce immigration laws already on the books.

HB56 is being challenged in federal court by the Justice Department, about 30 civil rights organizations and some prominent church leaders. Judges have blocked some elements of HB56, but sections still stand that make it a felony for illegal immigrants to conduct basic state business, like getting a driver's license.

Helen Rivas, who serves on the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice steering committee, said she was excited to see so many community members willing to stand up against the law.

"I've been waiting on something like this for 12 years," she said. "To see the community show such strong support, to see Hispanic folks overcome their fears and publicly fight for immigration reform at this level is new."

Smith said several urban communities around the state have shown strong abilities to organize and fight the bill. But he added that the coalition hopes events like the one held Saturday in Tuscaloosa will help spread that level of organization to rural areas as well. …

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