NCLR & HICA Board Member Express Grave Concern of HB56 Effects on Schools
Board Member Roseann Rodriguez participated in a press call organized by the National Council of La Raza about the devastating effects of HB56 on Alabama's schools and children.
FEAR MOUNTS OVER IMPLEMENTATION OF HB 56 AND ITS DAMAGING EFFECTS ON ALABAMA SCHOOLS
—A ruling handed down last week by U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Blackburn which upheld a provision of HB 56 that requires Alabama’s teachers to ascertain their students’ immigration statuses has resulted in an exodus
of Hispanic children from Alabama schools. The immediate impact of this days-old decision is already being felt, as worried parents pull their children out of schools and a growing number of desks sit empty.
Today, NCLR (National Council of La Raza) hosted a telephonic press briefing with leaders of two of the largest and most powerful teachers unions in the country, the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), as well as leaders from the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama (¡HICA!) and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). The groups discussed their utter disappointment in the ruling, particularly due to its potentially devastating impact on the education of Alabama’s students.
“This especially brutal and unconstitutional law negates so much of the hard work that Alabama has done to overcome its dark history with civil rights,” said Janet Murguía, President and CEO of NCLR. “In this case, children are the unfortunate victims. Many don’t realize that this law will harm not only Latino students, but every child enrolled in the state’s school system. Disrupting the learning process will have an overwhelming and crippling impact on the effectiveness of Alabama’s educators.”
The leaders on today’s call agreed that teachers cannot be saddled with the duties of federal immigration officers and worry that the fallout will prove distracting for both educators and their students. The groups repeatedly stressed that teachers need to be focused on teaching, while students need to be focused on learning and that HB 56 stands as a barrier to quality education. Additionally, they raised concerns about the potential financial losses that school systems could incur if students withdraw from classes.
“Our schools provide a crucial safe harbor for all children,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “This law is having a chilling effect—children are literally vanishing from Alabama classrooms. School employees are hired to help students learn, not check their immigration statuses. What students need most to succeed is an education and this law gets in the way of that.”
All of the groups on today’s call backed the Obama administration’s appeal of Judge Blackburn’s decision and would like to see swift action taken to prevent further implementation of the law.
“Immigrant families have correctly viewed public education as the path to the American dream,” said Randi Weingarten, President of AFT. “If allowed to stand, this harsh and counterproductive law will leave that dream in tatters. In a misguided attempt to punish illegal immigration, Alabama has instead punished blameless children for trying to get an education and achieve a better life.”
Roseann Rodriguez, who lives and works in Alabama and serves on the board of directors at ¡HICA!, an NCLR Affiliate, shared a first-hand account of the impact that the law has had just one week since it was implemented, emphasizing the shared disappointment felt by many in the state.
“I have lived in Alabama for a number of years and have chosen to make it my home for my family for many reasons,” said Rodriguez. “But this bill looks to make me and my family feel like outsiders in our own neighborhood—in our own home. The voices of hate have prevailed in Alabama through HB 56. But this is not the Alabama I know.”
NCLR—the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States—works to improve opportunities for Hispanic Americans. For more information on NCLR, please visit www.nclr.org
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