Birmingham City Council unanimously favors continuation of DACA, sets date for public hearing on Human Rights Ordinance

Photo courtesy of Wendy, Flickr Commons

By Johnathan Austin, Birmingham City Council President

Birmingham is no stranger to the ugly face of bigotry and those who wish to divide our citizens. We saw it during Jim Crow and we see it today with legislative efforts aimed at keeping the disenfranchised from being able to climb the ladder out of poverty by way of blocking Birmingham’s effort to incrementally increase the minimum wage.

Make no mistake, racism has not been defeated. Equality is not a finish line to be crossed. Rather, it is something we must fight for every day if we are to live up to the legacy of our forefathers whose efforts galvanized Birmingham as a place where civil rights became not only attainable for all citizens, but celebrated.

I was disheartened by the news that President Trump has decided to rescind DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), which has given hope to 800,000 young men and women who strive for a better life in a country that was founded by individuals seeking the same kind of dream.

These are children who were brought here, many of them before they could even remember the land where they came from. These are children who have bought into the promise of the American Dream and who have dedicated themselves to working hard to better their lives and those of their neighbors. Sending these children back to a country where many of them don’t know anyone is not what America is about. It’s the antithesis of what we as a country claim to stand for.

As the President of the Birmingham City Council, I introduced (and the City Council unanimously approved) a resolution that outlines our support for the continuation of DACA. Anything less would be counter to who we are as a city — a city that is the cradle of the Civil Rights Movement. We stand with the Dreamers and will do whatever we can to give them shelter in these days of uncertainty and bluster.

Human Rights Ordinance

In regards to the proposed Human Rights Ordinance, we have an obligation to add protections to those in our community that, as it stands, do not have legal recourse for discrimination they might face. Currently Alabama does not provide legal protections based on gender or sexual identity.

Forming a body whose sole purpose will be to advocate and protect against discriminatory practices, whether it be based on race or sexual preference, is simply the right thing to do. We need to pass this ordinance and let the legislature react, however that may be. We know they’re not going to help us add these protections for our citizens. We have to keep fighting for what we believe is right.

On Tuesday, the Council openly demonstrated its support for the Human Rights Ordinance by presenting a date for a public hearing. The Council passed the resolution for the purpose of promoting diversity, inclusion, and harmony within the city by way of receiving complaints and investigating discriminatory practices that are brought to the attention of the eleven-member commission. I urge my fellow councilors to support this resolution and do what is right for all of our citizens.