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Scott Douglas, Executive Director of Greater Birmingham Ministries, nailed it on the Colbert Report, Monday night not only in diction but also in tone, as he made his case against HB 56. Sometimes people try to go on Colbert and be funny, but it's hard to outfunny Colbert. It's better to just play it serious and let Colbert be the comedian, and Scott Douglas did that ">just as he said he would. More important, were his profound words which were almost always applauded by Colbert's audience.
Here are Colbert's questions and Douglas's responses which elicited applause from the audience:
STEPHEN COLBERT: We don't want the feds marching into Alabama. They did that 150 years ago. It didn't work out too well.
SCOTT DOUGLAS: The point is that Alabama should not be joining one of those states that has its own state immigrant law. We don't need 50 immigrant laws across the United States of America. We need one comprehensive law that's just and fair for everyone. (APPLAUSE)
COLBERT: But why as an African-American would you be fighting for the Latinos? Because they didn't fight for you guys.
DOUGLAS: This is Martin Luther King's birthday celebration and he famously says, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." And HB 56 is a threat to me and all Americans. (APPLAUSE)
COLBERT: Are things so good for black people in Alabama that you can turn your focus to Latinos?
DOUGLAS: 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. 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. (APPLAUSE)The Colbert Report (16 January 2012)
That last question was especially difficult to answer, much less in such a succinct fashion, and I hope folks in the pro-migrant movement will join me in thanking Douglas for his courage and eloquence. Douglas' interview builds nicely on my comments, on MLK day. As an African-American and the leader of a historic civil rights organization, in an area with a lot of civil rights history, he's one of the few that can make the connection between MLK and the civil rights movement and the pro-migrant movement. I would also recommend reading Alfredo Gutierrez, former state senator in Arizona, who eloquently describes the differences between civil disobedience during the civil rights era, and the current pro-migrant iterations of civil disobedience.
The only very small qualm I had with both Scott Douglas and Stephen Colbert is that they suggested that unauthorized migration is a crime, when the vast majority of unauthorized migration is prosecuted by the federal government as a civil violation. This is an important distinction to make because there are nativists who want to make unauthorized migration a crime, which would be a disaster for public safety. Furthermore calling unauthorized immigration a "crime" and unauthorized migrants "illegal immigrants" effectively denies unauthorized migrants commit crimes at lesser rates than the native population.
I pray my herman@s in Alabama keep up the good work and are ultimately successful in repealing HB 56. If you haven't signed the Presente.org petition against HB 56 please do so.
Kyle de Beausset is a pro-migrant blogger at Citizen Orange.