“human suffering does not disappear with the expiration of a visa”

7/14/11

MONTGOMERY, AL- The effects of HB 56, the Alabama Immigration law, have sown fear into the Hispanic population in Alabama. The requirements put in place to enforce it will create additional burdens and problems for many organizations, including the police, school systems, churches, and medical clinics. The burden of these additional requirements becomes dangerous when they affect public health.

The Aids Action Coalition, a non-profit HIV/AIDS clinic, has signed on as a plaintiff in the recent lawsuit filed against the state of Alabama to stop its recent immigration bill. Established in 1986, the AAC provides a broad range of direct services, including screening for sexually transmitted diseases, providing primary medical care, and providing transportation and housing assistance.

In the lawsuit filed last week, the AAC states that it provides services to its clients without regard to their immigration status.  Seventeen of their current clients are undocumented immigrants. Under the new law AAC doctors could be arrested for knowingly providing medical care, transportation to a medical clinic, or harboring undocumented immigrants in their medical facilities.

In the complaint filed, the AAC stated:

Due to the critical need to control the spread of infectious disease and because human suffering does not disappear with the expiration of a visa… [the] AAC does not now, nor does it intend to, deny care or services to these clients. (HICA v. Bentley p. 6)

Working with HIV/AIDS in the Deep South, something already associated with a lot of stigma, becomes more complex when working with undocumented immigrants. But the AAC says that not just undocumented immigrants but the entire Hispanic community in Alabama will be much more reluctant to use their services, because of the fear of racial profiling when on the road.  The fear created by this law is not just an undocumented immigrant issue, but a public health concern. This is not an issue of the Hispanic community’s rights, but of human rights.

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