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It is one of the painful ironies of our time that in the same season Martin Luther King Jr.’s memory is finally honored with a memorial in our nation’s capital, the state where he began to lead the civil rights movement is once more the center of an ugly conflict over racial injustice.

The passage of Alabama’s anti-immigrant legislation, HB 56, invokes inhumanity reminiscent of the Jim Crow South. And the police state it has created is equally cruel.

If the law stands, children will be denied admission to public schools if they can’t prove their citizenship, and schools will be turned into enforcement operations. Poor people of color will be ripped from their families if they are caught in public without their papers in order. Samaritans and people of conscience who employ, harbor or help undocumented workers will be severely punished.

Already, opportunistic corrections firms are standing by to pocket money off prejudice and terrified families are selling off their meager possessions and fleeing the state.

Our immigration system is broken, but our answer as a nation cannot be to terrorize and criminalize families. Our immigration policy must be consistent with our core values and our moral obligation to treat all people with dignity and respect.


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