This article from Fox News Latino explores the meanings and possible effects of Alabama’s immigration battle. It’s tempting to assume that, given Alabama’s history, there has to be a connection to the racism and battles to integrate African Americans of a generation ago. The only problem with this association is that Alabama is not an exceptional case in the anti-immigrant struggle. Sadly, it will not be the last. What’s more important, the historical context for the case of the civil rights era and the immigration era are not parallel. These are different times, different people and different responses. The fact that Alabama has a troubled history of racism does not mean that their current anti-immigrant furor is simply more of the same.
As a nation we are reluctant to grapple with our feelings about social change and what role newcomers will play in our communities. Alabama is one of many places that has enacted anti-immigrant legislation that is destructive and nativist. You do not have to have a racist past to exhibit a nativist present. This is evident from Arizona, Manassas, Virginia, and Hazelton, Pennsylvania (among others).