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Alabama Slammed

Obama’s mendacious case against an immigration law.

Dec 12, 2011, Vol. 17, No. 13 • By QUIN HILLYER
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Photo of Barack Obama

Aided greatly by the establishment media, the Obama administration is trying to resurrect the image of Alabama as both the Heart of Dixie and the heart of darkness, with Jim Crow’s abuses this time being readied against light-brown-skinned immigrants and the freedom-riding preachers who give them succor.

A multiple-front legal fight is under way regarding Alabama’s controversial new law against illegal immigrants​—​which, among other things, punishes businesses that knowingly hire illegals and asks police to check the legal status of anybody being detained for some other violation. But the law carefully tracks, rather than contradicts, federal statutes, and the only “massive resistance” involved is the Obama administration’s massive resistance to the truth. The president himself led the way into the gutter.

In a November 9 briefing to Hispanic media, Obama blasted “the idea that we have children afraid to go to school, because they feel afraid that their immigration status will lead them to being detained .  .  . [and also] the notion that if a Catholic priest drives an undocumented worker to the hospital, he could be criminally charged; that people can be stopped in the streets and harassed or checked [for residency status].”

Seven days later, Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas Perez, who has opened an investigation of alleged “civil rights” violations without yet identifying specific examples, chimed in about parents keeping their children from school “because they’re concerned they will be pulled over because of what they look like.”

Aside from the existence of real fears​—​unfounded fears ginned up by the administration itself​—​every element of the Obama and Perez complaints was false.

First, as in other such laws around the country, the Alabama law in multiple places specifically rules out ethnic profiling and stopping people in the streets for suspected lack of immigration status alone​—​that is, without legitimate suspicion of non-immigration violations. “A law enforcement officer .  .  . may not consider race, color, or national origin in the enforcement of this section,” the law says on page 28. And on page 30. And on page 32. And, adding “ethnicity” and “gender” to the list, on page 60. On page 43, it insists that businesses make firing decisions “without regard to the race, ethnicity, or national origin” of a worker and that termination be “consistent with the anti-discrimination laws of this state and of the United States.”

It’s worth noting that several Democratic leaders in the state legislature, white and black alike, voted for the Alabama law, hardly the stance one would expect if racial profiling were involved.

Then there is the absurd notion that priests or pastors might be arrested while providing humanitarian assistance under the part of the law that would make it unlawful to “harbor” an illegal alien. For one thing, the anti-harboring provisions match, almost word for word, an extensive anti-harboring section of federal law (8 U.S. Code 1324) that similarly makes it unlawful to “conceal, harbor, or shield from detection, such alien in any place, including any building or any means of transportation”​—​a federal law that never before has been thought to put clergy in the slightest danger. For another thing, the Alabama law contains a host of exceptions for primary and secondary education and for just the sorts of humanitarian actions Obama described​—​among others, any “emergency medical condition,” “emergency disaster relief,” and “soup kitchens, crisis counseling and intervention, and short-term shelter.”

To add to the protections for those in the ministry, Alabama’s constitution contains a “Religious Freedom Amendment” more extensive than the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, namely “to guarantee that the freedom of religion is not burdened by state and local law; and to provide a claim or defense to persons whose religious freedom is burdened by government.”

Finally, when Obama was using the Hispanic media to spread alarm, a federal judge had already enjoined the Alabama law’s “harboring” sections on technical grounds, mooting (at least for now) the entire alleged danger.

“I’ve made it clear in every public statement that there is nothing in this law that would prohibit anyone from being a good Samaritan,” said Luther Strange, Alabama’s mild-mannered, moderate-conservative attorney general cast by the New York Times in the role of the viciously segregationist former governor George Wallace, with all of Wallace’s “defiant history of intolerance and minority oppression.” The characterization fits Strange about as well as a tuxedo would fit a porpoise.

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