Four Films Demand Repeal of Alabama Law

By Jerry Kammer and Jerry Kammer on February 16, 2012

As I attended the discussion of Alabama's law against illegal immigration yesterday at the Center for American Progress, it occurred to me that the opposing sides of the national immigration debate have answered President Truman's forlorn yearning for a one-armed economist who would abolish ambiguity.

The discussion introduced a series of four short films that make impassioned statements against the Alabama law and urge its repeal. They can be viewed here.

One film juxtaposes a vulgar and inebriated supporter of the law with a grade school teacher who simply wants to teach her young students, no matter what their immigration status.

Another starts off with former Alabama Gov. George Wallace's infamous call for "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever!" It puts the law against illegal immigration in the same moral category as the racist attempt to deny civil rights to African Americans.

The films are the work of Hollywood director Chris Weitz, who worked in conjunction with the lobbying group America's Voice. We have previously reported on the American Voice campaign, funded by millions of dollars from the Carnegie Corp., to smear and demonize immigration restrictionist organizations like CIS, Numbers USA, and FAIR.

The interviews for the films were conducted by Jose Antonio Vargas, who won a Pulitzer Prize at the Washington Post and announced last summer that he was an illegal immigrant brought to the U.S. from his native Philippines when he was a young boy.

Vargas has become an activist, committed to telling stories that make the case for "comprehensive immigration reform". As the films demonstrate, he and his colleagues do not believe there is a case to be made against a "comprehensive" plan that would offer citizenship to illegal immigrants, expand legal immigration (especially of the poor and poorly educated), guarantee employers a steady stream of cheap guest workers, and provide an unconvincing promise of getting serious about stopping illegal immigration.

"Forget about balance. Forget about objectivity," said Vargas. He said those on his side of the argument are in "an all-hands-on-deck moment" in the national immigration debate.

Wednesday's discussion also introduced a CAP report titled "Alabama's Immigration Disaster: The Harshest Law in the Land Harms the State's Economy and Society".

The report is well-written and thoroughly documented. As a brief to demand repeal of the Alabama law, it makes no pretense of objectivity, balance, or fairness. It provides no hint that there might be legitimate, non-racist reasons to support the legislation.

Nevertheless, the report describes in valuable detail the law's heavy toll on illegal immigrant families and the costs for Alabama farmers who depend on illegal immigrant labor. Supporters of the Alabama law should weigh its arguments, despite the fact that it makes no effort to acknowledge the high costs of cheap labor to schools, communities, hospitals, social service agencies, and unskilled Americans.

The report was written by Tom Baxter, the former national editor and chief political correspondent for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

To his credit, Baxter yesterday offered a rare on-the-other hand moment when he responded to a statement by CAP's Angela Kelley. Kelley said there have been efforts to pit African Americans against Latinos in the immigration debate.

Said Baxter: "There's a natural basis for that because you have a lot of low-income people competing for the same jobs."

My work on immigration has convinced me that there are many other points on the other side of the immigration debate, which has more arms than a Hindu goddess and more complexities than a graduate-school course in rocket science.

But given the determination and financial resources of the groups like CAP and America's Voice, and given the increasingly impoverished journalistic coverage of immigration, the job of telling the other side of the story falls to groups like CIS.

Personally, I'd like to much more recognition by both sides of immigration's on-the-other-hand nuances and sensitivities. That's why my motto on immigration policy is: Always hard-headed, but never hard-hearted.