March 13, 2012

Alabama, the "Great Immigration Migration" and the Spirit of GOP Primary Day


It would be irresponsible to see the campaign and media hoopla surrounding the GOP primary in Alabama pass without any mention of HB56. The draconian (ie: worse than Arizona) anti-immigration law is currently causing a stunning phenomena in the state right now, the wholesale “self-deportation” of undocumented workers to other states.

Beyond an inspired re-staging of the famous Selma-to-Montgomery march, there have been two prominent photo stories about the migration recently, one at MoJo by David Walker Banks about the impact on farm workers, and another at WAPO shot by Sarah L. Voisin centered on a Latino parish in Foley that has seen most of its families take flight.

Harassment and prohibition on hiring, renting, access to education. Punishing anyone who helps house or employ the undocumented. Racial profiling by law enforcement and mandated school reporting. To the extent the law represents both a moral and an economic failure, I was interested in how the lively and closely-followed campaign intersected with the images from The Great Migration, if at all.


If there was one photo that stood out for me, it was this one from Biloxi yesterday of a boy asking Santorum to autograph his 2005 book, “It Takes a Family”, a cultural and moral primer Rick wrote as a response to Hillary Clinton’s “It Takes a Village.” Given the patronizing attitude in the book about “self-reliance” in the face of the “welfare state” — especially toward women and minorities — I was particularly curious about the cover. Observing the facial features and the coloring, the family most in need of this indoctrination looks a lot closer to Hispanic than to White.


According to a recent CNN story, the HB56 law is so abusive, even factions of the religious right are starting to hedge. The article notes that even Santorum is not 100% behind the rule the way Romney and Gingrich are. (His one qualification, apparently, is that he would not require homeowners to verify the legal status of their domestic help.)

Otilla Gaona Alamabama immigrant flight

With Santorum’s tract in mind, there was also a photo from the WAPO slideshow that also caught my attention, this shot of Otilia Gaona, a U.S. citizen reacting to stories of immigrant parishioners relating their imminent departures. Thinking of HB56, Santorum’s pervasive religious zeal, his slight equivocation and this wonderful background out-of-focus, the question that seems to need asking is: What would Jesus do?

photo 1: Win McNamee caption: Republican presidential candidate, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum answers questions from the media while visiting Dreamland Bar-B-Que during a campaign stop March 12, 2012 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. As the race for delegates continues, Alabama and Mississippi will hold their primaries 2: Sean Gardner/Getty Images caption: Republican presidential candidate, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R) greets supporters during the Gulf Coast Energy Summit at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum on March 12, 2012 in Biloxi, Mississippi. As the race for delegates continues, Alabama and Mississippi will hold their primaries tomorrow. photo 4: Sarah L. Voisin / The Washington Post caption: Otilia Gaona, a U.S. citizen, wipes a tear as she hears illegal-immigrant parishioners at St. Margaret of Scotland talk about their situations.

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Michael Shaw
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