Alabama Congressman's Offensive Statements Highlight Dangers Of Hateful Anti-Immigrant Legislation

Mo Brooks' rhetoric demonstrates what is already clear about Arizona-style bills -- they do not intend to find workable solutions to immigration. Rather, they force immigrants to live in fear, and perpetuate discrimination and intolerance.
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Things are getting ugly in Alabama. Last month, the Cotton State became the fourth state to pass a draconian anti-immigrant, anti-Latino law, one even harsher than Arizona SB 1070. And on June 29, Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks used violent and inappropriate language toward immigrants, saying, "As your congressman on the House floor, I'll do anything short of shooting them, anything that is lawful."

As shocking as his comment may be to many Americans, Brooks' statement is only the latest in a number of offensive remarks from elected officials who have used demonizing language toward immigrants to further their political agendas. Last November, Tennessee State Representative Curry Todd likened immigrants to rats in a hearing. Then, in March, Kansas State Representative Virgil Peck brought shame to his legislature by comparing immigrants to swine and saying that they should be shot from helicopters. Even John McCain recently blamed some of the most devastating wildfires in Arizona's history on undocumented immigrants, despite the fact that U.S. Forest Service officials said there was no evidence to support his claim.

Just under a month ago, Republican Governor Robert Bentley signed HB 56 into law, seizing the title of harshest anti-immigrant legislation in the nation from Arizona's widely reviled SB 1070. This sweeping anti-Hispanic bill mimics the draconian Arizona legislation, providing local law enforcement with an overly broad license to investigate residents' immigration statuses, thereby opening the doors to racial profiling. Alabama's bill goes a step further by requiring schools to collect information on the citizenship or immigration status of their students, bringing discrimination back into Alabama's classrooms. Unfortunately, this damaging piece of legislation threatens the public safety and civil rights of everybody living in Alabama and is likely to lead to the same costly legal battles and financial losses that ensued in Arizona, which negatively impacted the state's economy and image.

Although Brooks does not sit on his state's legislature, his comment exposes what lies behind enforcement-only policies like HB 56. His rhetoric demonstrates what is already crystal clear about Arizona-style bills -- they do not intend to find workable policies and solutions to the issue of immigration. Rather, they force immigrants to live in fear, and they perpetuate discrimination and intolerance toward immigrants and the overall Latino community alike.

Advocating for anything beyond commonsense solutions at the federal level is illogical and, in this case, blatantly dangerous. The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and Representative Brooks may disagree on how to fix the U.S. immigration system, but we should all agree that finding those solutions requires no mention of violence or dehumanizing rhetoric. Brooks' violent language is unacceptable and has absolutely no place in civil discourse. We expect better from elected officials and ask Mr. Brooks to apologize for his insensitive and inappropriate statement.

This post originally appeared on the National Council of La Raza blog.

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