Alabama immigration law called nation’s ‘meanest’

June 16, 2011

A new Alabama law that makes it a crime to offer rides to
undocumented immigrants is the "meanest" immigration law in the country,
according to a United Methodist bishop and respected theologian.

Bishop
William Willimon of the North Alabama Conference called the bill, which
was recently signed into law by Gov. Robert Bentley, an embarrassment
and motivated by "intimidation and meanness."

Willimon and the
state's other United Methodist bishop, Paul Leeland, wrote an open
letter to Bentley and lawmakers who pushed the law. "There's a lot of
frustration out there, disappointment, embarrassment," Willimon said.
"We will come together and pray."

The law includes a provision
that makes it illegal to knowingly hire or give a ride to an illegal
immigrant. A church volunteer who gives someone a ride to the doctor
could be prosecuted, Willimon noted.

"One of the most nefarious
aspects of this law is it appears to criminalize Alabamians in the act
of being helpful and compassionate," he said, calling the claim that an
immigration crackdown will create jobs "particularly repugnant."

Willimon
said relief efforts following devastating tornadoes across the state
have been hampered, with Spanish-speaking residents "reluctant to
receive aid" out of fear of deportation.

"One thing our church is
hoping to show our Spanish-speaking friends is that this law is not in
our spirit," Willimon said. "We want the world to know that this does
not represent the best of Alabama."  —RNS