The law’s sponsor says that’s unfair. But a lawyer challenging the law says it shows the feelings that exist in the Alabama Legislature about Hispanics.
Last Monday, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson issued a preliminary injunction against state officials requiring any mobile home occupants to prove their residency before getting the annual registrations for homes. Thompson said there enough evidence of discriminatory bias against Hispanics to warrant the move before he makes a final ruling.
Thompson cited comments made by two legislators during the debate, but he did not note that they were Democrats or that they voted against the bill.
The judge recounted how Rep. John Rogers of Birmingham talked about seeing 30 Hispanics get out of a car in the Hoover area. “I thought it was a circus. They kept getting out and kept getting out,” Rogers said.
Then the judge recounted how Rep. Thomas Jackson of Thomasville talked about visiting chicken houses and seeing “4-foot Mexicans in there catching them chickens.”
The judge said the comments reinforce the contention that the target of the bill — illegal immigrants — “was just a racially discriminatory code for Hispanics.”
Rogers said he, Jackson and other black Democrats filibustered against the bill for two days in an effort to kill it before white Republicans ran over them and passed it.
Rogers said his comment was meant as a compliment about Hispanics’ tenacity and hard work even while making low wages.
“I was saying they survive because they pool their resources on housing and transportation. I wasn’t saying it disparagingly,” he said.
The bill’s primary sponsor, Republican Rep. Micky Hammon of Decatur, was surprised to see the judge use two opponents’ remarks against the proponents. “It’s hard to understand how that could be used,” he said.
One of the attorneys challenging the law in federal court, Sam Brooke of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said the debate shows that everyone — proponents and opponents — knew the law was aimed at Hispanics. He said it was even more telling that no proponents objected to the remarks by Rogers and Thomas.