Quoting Martin Luther King and deftly comparing the injustice of anti-immigrant legislation to the civil rights movement of the 1960s, Scott Douglas, executive director of Greater Birmingham Ministries, rocked the Colbert Report during his national television debut on Monday.
Applause filled the studio as Douglas, one of the leaders in the fight to repeal the extreme Alabama legislation, drove home the point that injustice against anyone is unacceptable, and none of us can afford to stand by silently.
The Colbert Report is a satirical nighttime television show that parodies conservative talk shows while tackling current issues. On Monday, the topic was House Bill 56, the harsh law that was pushed through the Alabama legislature last year with little public notice or discussion. It went into effect January 1.
The legislation essentially turns educators, business owners, landlords and citizens into immigration officers, and punishes anyone caught hiring, housing or even giving a car ride to an undocumented person in the state.
Parents have taken their children out of schools, farmers and contractors have struggled to find workers. Many families have fled the state.
“Listening to Scott affirmed how important it is to have African American people speaking out about the anti-immigration laws,” said Sophia Bracy Harris, executive director of the Federation of Child Care Centers of Alabama.
“During the Civil Rights Movement we were guided by a spiritual principle of the value and worth of every human being and through his quotes of Dr. King, Scott reminded us this principle is being sabotaged by HB 56,” she said.
Douglas, who was traveling Tuesday and couldn’t be reached right away for a comment, apparently took the advice given him earlier by friends, playing it straight while host Stephen Colbert spouted one-liners.
“If the Hispanic illegal immigrants are not there to pick our crops, I don’t get my Caesar salad,” said Colbert.
“Are things so good for black people in Alabama that you can turn your focus to Latinos?” Colbert continued.
Douglas was ready.
“African-Americans can never forget how hard we toiled to gain the rights we now have and how far we’ve got to toil to gain even more,” said Douglas. “We know the path we had to trod and we’re trying to be in solidarity with these people as they face this stage of this abuse,” Douglas said.
He urged passage of a single, comprehensive, federal immigration system – instead of fifty state systems – as well as the law’s practical burdens on families, taxpayers and law enforcement, sparking more cheers.
Douglas and the Greater Birmingham Ministries are key partners with other state organizations in filing a lawsuit challenging the legislation.
“We refuse to stand by and do nothing as this immoral law undermines communities, punishes children, perpetuates hate and bigotry and, above all, goes against everything people of faith stand for,” Douglas told Equal Voice newspaper when the lawsuit was filed.
“It is essential that we hold firm to our beliefs and our core values of life and liberty for all,” he said.
Equal Voice News researcher Natalie Holmes contributed to this report.
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