Originally published by Colorlines on November 22, 2011.
Recently I was invited to be a part of a delegation of labor leaders heading down to Alabama to speak out against one of the worst immigration laws in the country. I found it interesting, because the trip was billed as a “black” labor leader delegation. I’ve heard a lot about the black-brown discussion over immigrant rights, so I was ecstatic that this delegation of specifically black folks was going down to witness this law’s impact first hand. As a commentator on race and blackness, I felt it important that I join. Although there are those within the community who aren’t supportive, there are many who are absolutely against the prejudice that we’ve seen popping up across the country this past year, under the guise of “saving American jobs.”
I had been aware of Arizona’s SB-1070, so when the AFL-CIO asked me to participate I felt I already “got it.” I thought I knew what the situation would be when we arrived in Birmingham.
I was wrong.
Over two days we met with activists, business owners, and those that were affected the most by the law—undocumented people themselves—and my understanding was completely changed. I was against the law when I arrived in Birmingham. But 48 hours later I didn’t simply oppose it; I was horrified and angry for the people who have to live under it and confused as to how this could have ever been allowed in the first place.
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