Alabama’s Nuremberg Playbook

Originally posted on the AILA Leadership Blog

By G. Vernon Leopold

Eighty years ago I was a child in Germany, where my family had lived for generations.  My father, a decorated officer of the German Air Force, who had proudly served his country in World War I, could never have imagined that in just a few years he would be singularly focused on saving our lives.

Last summer Alabama adopted its Public Law 56 or, as it’s commonly known, HB56; a law that under the guise of controlling illegal immigration will deny undocumented immigrants employment, housing, schooling, and other rights and benefits equal to those guaranteed to its other residents. In effect, if not in intent, Alabama’s law closely follows the playbook of the racially restrictive decrees that the Nazis initiated in Germany beginning with Hitler’s takeover in January 1933 when the Nazis started to throw undesirable “Non-Aryan” Jewish Germans into concentration camps.

Since brown skinned Latinos comprise a visible minority in Alabama, HB56 now empowers, in fact requires, Alabama law enforcement officers to profile and detain as “suspicious” without warrant Latinos regardless of citizenship status if they are unable to identify themselves on demand as lawful U.S. residents. And as the Nazis’ Nuremberg laws that progressively restricted and then barred German businesses from employing Jews and Jewish households from engaging “Aryan” domestics, Alabama’s HB56 imposes heavy penalties on employers of undocumented aliens.  Like the Nuremberg measures in Nazi Germany that revoked the licensure of “Non-Aryan” professionals such as Jewish physicians, judges and lawyers and barred them from receiving pension benefits, HB56 bars unauthorized foreign nationals in Alabama from employment as teachers, from admission to public schools and universities, and from receiving health and welfare benefits. And like the Nazis’ measures that in 1938, in line with their earlier Nuremberg laws, had decreed the mass, overnight deportation of all Polish Jewish residents from Germany, HB56 now mandates the summary deportation of undocumented aliens from Alabama.

For the time being, enforcement of Alabama’s HB56 is stayed on appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. But unless this racially targeted law is voided as unconstitutional by the courts, where will Alabama’s legal mayhem of civil rights and due process end?56 court o

The Nazis built their state of terror gradually and deliberately though propaganda, violence, mixed with colossal perversions of the rule of law. By the end of 1938 through violence, fines and confiscation the Nazis had progressively destroyed or seized all Jewish-owned property.  By 1944 they had deported and murdered six million Jews. It took millions more in American, and allied lives during World War II to stop Hitler’s calculated attempts to render Europe “JUDENREIN”—free of Jews.  Hopefully the U.S. courts will put a stop to Alabama’s legislative effort to make its territory “LATINO-REIN”.

Mr. Leopold, a retired lawyer, is a graduate of Harvard Law School who in 1938 (at the age of 15) fled Nazi Germany with his family, came to the U.S. as a refugee, and enlisted in the U.S. Army where he served in the European theater in the most decorated platoon in World War II.

About David Leopold
Past President and Past General Counsel, American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), In-the-Trenches practicing immigration Attorney, Blogger, Activist, Photographer, Educator, World Traveler. All opinions are my own.

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