Skip to main content
Sammie Moshenberg's picture

There are bedtime stories and there are wake-up stories. The stories I heard last week in Birmingham, Alabama, as part of the We Belong Together delegation, were wake-up stories. They were stories that opened my eyes to the harrowing human dimensions of HB 56 – the nation’s harshest immigration law.

Seated on metal folding chairs, in the offices of HICA (Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama), surrounded by American flags, posters from protest marches, and – ironically – an old poster advertising a city-wide “fiesta,” about 20 women from all over the country listened as seven women told their personal stories. We heard from a mother who came to the U.S. seeking life-saving heart surgery for her five-year-old son after doctors in Mexico told her he would die. Surgery in the U.S. was successful and now this child, a young man of 18, requires follow-up care and surgery that he cannot access because of Alabama’s immigration law.

Another woman shared her family’s hardships after a devastating tornado a few years ago. As they were beginning to pick up the pieces, a man-made tornado – HB56 – tore through their lives once again and kept them from getting even federal FEMA aid. A victim of horrific domestic violence received legal, medical, and counseling assistance prior to the passage of her state’s law. Now she despairs because the services she benefited from are out of the question for other immigrant women and, with the threat of deportation hanging over her head, she fears being sent back to Mexico where her abuser now lives.

A young girl of 14 bravely spoke about being left alone when her parents and young US-born sister were forced to return to Mexico. She now lives with a guardian, separated from the family she loves, as she pursues her dream of getting a good education.

The other stories also captured the desperation that accompanies the constant fear of deportation from a place where these women and their families have made a home, a life – deportation to a country where there are no jobs, the constant threat of violence, and no future. The common thread weaving throughout was the dream for a better life in a place where they could support their families, access life-saving medical care, and see a brighter future for their children. As a Jewish woman, I recognize this dream. It’s the dream that my grandparents, my in-laws, and so many in our community held fast when they immigrated to the United States, escaping violence and poverty.

The stories I heard in Birmingham, Alabama, were a wake-up call. For every anti-immigrant law – in Arizona; Georgia; Prince William County, Virginia; Hazelton, Pennsylvania; Fremont, Nebraska; and so on – there are stories of human suffering and tragedy. Now, working with our immigrant sisters, we must add our stories of activism to restore human rights and democratic values.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of strongly encourages our readers to post comments in response to blog posts. We value diversity of opinions and perspectives. Our goals for this space are to be educational, thought-provoking, and respectful. So we actively moderate comments and we reserve the right to edit or remove comments that undermine these goals. Thanks!