Racial Profiling in Alabama Elementary Schools — American Girl Targeted for Looking Hispanic

In the wake of HB 56, Alabama’s extreme immigration law, students have been bullied by their peers simply for looking Hispanic, and now even one teacher has singled out a student because she looked foreign — even though she is an American citizen.

The ACLU reports that a teacher gave Cineo Gonzales’ young daughter a pamphlet in Spanish about HB 56. When Gonzales, a Birmingham taxi driver, went to the school’s principal to ask why it was given to his daughter specifically, the principal told him that the school handed out the pamphlets to students “who looked like they weren’t from there”:

GONZALES: I asked her why they give this paper to my daughter. What was the reason they give this paper to my daughter, and her answer was that they give this paper to all the children that appear like they are not from here. […]

Far as I can see and far as I can feel, my daughter is being singled out and racial profiled and discriminated because of her color and race and origin from where they think she is from.

Alabama’s anti-immigrant law, the most harmful in the nation, has opened the door for racial profiling like this by targeting those who look like undocumented immigrants. And the issue pushed its way into schools because the law required schools to ask the citizenship status of newly enrolled students, a provision which has since been blocked by a federal appeals court. Thousands of Hispanic students skipped school when the law went into effect, fearing that they or their parents could be deported just for going to school, and many are not returning to class even though the Eleventh circuit blocked the policy.

While students still avoid classrooms across Alabama and some of those who remain are racially profiled based solely on their appearance, state Attorney General Luther Strange is arguing that the Justice Department shouldn’t be able to ask Alabama school districts for data about the student absences since the state’s immigration law went into effect. He argued on Monday “that the Justice Department wants to make Alabama an example because of its history going back 50 to 60 years ago.”

But just as separate schools for black and white children were found to be unconstitutional almost 60 years ago, the Supreme Court also has ruled that it is unconstitutional to deny a student a public education because of their immigration status. If Strange is so concerned about Alabama’s past history, perhaps he should protect students from being racially profiled like Gonzales’ daughter and let the Justice Department verify that students are not being denied their right to an education.

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