On this Sunday afternoon, Sept. 25, they gather together just days before their lives may change forever, exactly four days when an Alabama judge is set to rule on the constitutionality of the highly controversial HB56. The bill, which passed the Alabama state legislature on July 9, criminalizes giving an undocumented immigrant a ride in your car, requires that public schools check the legal status of students, makes it mandatory for employers to use E-Verify to check potential employees’ status and mandates that police check the immigration status of anyone they suspect of being an undocumented immigrant during routine traffic stops.
There is no mention of these fears or concerns during the mass. The announcement does not come until after the priest has given out communion. That is when the audience first heard about the gathering taking place afterwards in the church parish, where anyone who wanted to, could share their everyday experiences as an immigrant in the state of Alabama. The room began to fidget quietly, friends turned to neighbors, wives to husbands, asking each other if they wanted to participate.
A total of 25 people crowded around a single round table in the otherwise empty church parish. Some of them held their children in their lap; the older children formed their own group at another table, quietly taking turns and rolling a small ball to each other. The room remained quiet for a long period of time. The group was anxious, perhaps a little weary of who would be asking what types of questions. As they began to understand the purpose of the gathering—an opportunity to share their story—they began to relax. An elegant woman with subtle pink lipstick and dark hair, which she has pulled back into a tight bun, spoke first.
“I came here with the same motives as anyone else who comes here—to improve my life, to get ahead, to provide a better life for my family,” said Luisa, an immigrant from Mexico who has been in the United States for eight years. “In my country, I would not have the same opportunity that I have here to give my children a more stable, better and brighter future. I came with my husband to work, to do things for the better and to eventually get ahead.”