“About *&%$ time!”
“Welcome to Alabama — where we promise we’re not xenophobic.”
“Illegal means illegal! (Spittle flies.) What don’t you understand about that?”
“Alabama’s motto is Audemus jura nostra defendere (We Dare Defend Our Rights). And it’s our right to treat people as we wish.”
Or, you could choose the sentence uttered this week by Cooper Shattuck, the chief legal advisor to Gov. Robert Bentley.
“It (HB56) is one of the most misunderstood, misquoted and misinterpreted pieces of legislation that we have yet to deal with,” he told people at the Association of County Commissions of Alabama legislative conference at Auburn University.
Don’t like that one?
He also said this.
“(The law) is not a model of clarity …”
So there you have it. Another crack in the façade of Alabama’s Great Mistake. At the least, give House Speaker Mike Hubbard credit for keeping the pedal down on the Republican defense of this ill-advised law. He warned critics this week that the state Legislature will not repeal HB56. Tweak it, yes. Repeal it? Give up on it? Retreat from it? Admit that it’s a terrible mistake?
No stinkin’ way.
Yet, the unintended consequences of this law — of which there are many — have caught its supporters in a vice-grip. The world is holding Alabama up as an example of either legislative mistakes or racist leadership, or both. Washington is fighting it, hard. Democrats, seemingly extinct in Montgomery, are railing against it, though that hardly matters.
And other Southern states — think Mississippi — are resembling the epitome of those who welcome ethnic diversity and international relationships.
In this instance, Alabama’s timing couldn’t be worse.
In the last two weeks, two foreign citizens — a German and a Japanese — have made headlines for getting swept up in the HB56 dragnet. The German was a Mercedes official assigned to the automaker’s plant in Vance. (His papers weren’t in his car when he was pulled over.) The Japanese was a worker at the Honda plant in Lincoln. (He received a citation for allegedly violating the new law.)
Both were legally in the United States.
But welcome to Alabama!
Meanwhile, over in Mississippi, Gov. Haley Barbour has led the celebration of the opening of the new Toyota plant in Blue Springs, a pinprick-sized dot on the map close to Tupelo. (If you get on U.S. 78 and head west into the Magnolia State, it’s on the left; you can’t miss it.) Yes, Toyota’s making Japanese vehicles in north Mississippi, just like Honda is in Lincoln. It’s been a long time getting to this point, thanks in no small part to the unfortunate timing of building a massive manufacturing plant just before a recession did everything but implode the global economy.
Mississippi’s newest foreign employer is the result of a collaboration Alabama should copy, and fast. It’s called the PUL Alliance — a partnership between the Mississippi counties of Pontotoc, Union and Lee, who pooled their intellectual, legal and fiscal resources to create a regional package of incentives and lure the Japanese automaker to a nondescript tract of north Mississippi land.
(I’ll repeat it: The PUL Alliance is a model Calhoun County and its closest neighbors, Etowah and Talladega and Cleburne, must plagiarize. Only stubbornness or stupidity could spoil such a splendid idea. Going at it alone is so 20th century.)
The difference is that the Mississippi Legislature hasn’t passed a bill creating “the nation’s toughest anti-illegal immigration law.” Right or wrong, the perception is that Mississippi’s new state-of-the-art manufacturing plant for a foreign automaker has opened at the same time that Alabama cops have arrested or ticketed foreign automaker representatives.
Say it again: Welcome to Alabama!
If I were laying odds, I’d set the line pretty high that Japanese officials in Blue Springs have heard about their countryman and a German getting caught in this HB56 morass. Bet they’re also thinking that they’re glad they’re not dealing with such nonsense in Mississippi, either.
It’s like hoping you lose by only four touchdowns. Perhaps the most viable prayer is for Shattuck, Bentley’s legal adviser, to be right. As he told the Opelika-Auburn News, “(T)here are lots of opportunities to address (the law’s) issues ... We can fix it. We’re not stuck with it.”
If so, well, no clever slogan will be able to keep states like Mississippi from saying, “Thank God for Alabama.”
Phillip Tutor — email@example.com — is The Star’s commentary editor.