Civil Rights

Anti-Immigrant Law in Alabama

As one in a string of recent anti-immigrant laws in several US states, Alabama’s HB 56 has been decried as the harshest anti-immigrant law passed and enacted in our nation’s recent history. This law will increase instances of racial profiling and civil rights abuses since Alabamian law enforcement officers are required to ask anyone they suspect of being an undocumented immigrant for proof of citizenship papers. In addition, illegal immigrants cannot enter into a contract between private parties (i.e. sign a lease) or a contract between private individuals and the state (i.e. receive state-provided utilities). Legal challenges from the Department of Justice and several legal advocacy groups have led to judges’ blocking several of the law’s provisions from being enforced, including a provision that would criminalize harboring or transporting illegal immigrants.Most recently, the Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit has the section of the law that would require schools to identify and record the citizenship statuses of their K-12 students.The court has also temporarily suspended the provision that makes it a state crime for individuals to travel without documentation of citizenship. While this was a victory for many in Alabama, these provisions had already led to the detention of some immigrants and many other harsh, restrictive regulations from HB 56 continue to be implemented in the state.

After hearing accounts from advocacy and legal organizations in Alabama, we have learned of many upheavals both inside and outside of immigrant communities. For some, this law has prevented them from going to work or attending school because of the risks of travelling without papers.For others, it has even pushed their families to flee the state in the middle of the night. Additionally, the impact of this law on the state’s economy has already been felt. Farms are missing employees, many of whom are undocumented, and these jobs do not seem to have widely appealed to the Americans who were supposed to take them. Activists are fighting this law and offering services to affected populations through advocacy campaigns, grassroots organizing, public education clinics and messaging to sway public opinion with economic and civil rights based arguments.

As a Foundation concerned with human rights in the US, we urge all of our readers to learn more about HB 56, the local ramifications of its implementation and the legal battles that surround it. The ACLU, an Overbrook grantee, has described its efforts against HB 56 and its assessment of the situation in Alabama at Major news sources have also provided in-depth coverage of the progression of this discriminatory law.

Innocence Project Sets the Standard for Conducting Eyewittnes Lineups

A highly-anticipated report released today (and reported on in The New York Times) shows that the Innocence Project’s recommended procedures for conducting eyewitness lineups are more accurate than other methods. The report has significant implications for reducing wrongful convictions within the United States criminal justice system. Eyewitness misidentification is the single greatest cause of wrongful convictions nationwide, playing a role in more than 75% of the 273 convictions overturned through DNA testing.

The report describes field studies conducted by the American Judicature Society, in collaboration with the Police Foundation, the Innocence Project, and the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing. The police departments of Austin (TX), Tucson (AZ), San Diego (CA), and Charlotte-Mecklenburg (NC) all participated in the research, which began in 2008. The officers collected detailed information on lineup procedures and outcomes to determine the most accurate methods.

Analysis of the data showed that double-blind sequential lineups — where the administering officer doesn’t know which person is the suspect, and the witness views one person or photograph at a time — produce fewer mistaken identifications than lineups that present all of the suspects simultaneously. The study also found that sequential lineups resulted in the same number of correct suspect identifications as simultaneous lineups.