Changes to Alabama’s Extreme Immigration Law Not Enough, Critics Say

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Following numerous protests, lawsuits, damaging economic reports and problems enforcing the law, Alabama Rep. Micky Hammon of Decatur proposed a bill (HB 658) that tweaks key provisions of the state’s immigration enforcement law, HB 56. Last week, the Alabama House approved those changes, some of which scaled back provisions of the law and others which actaully expanded existing provisions. While Rep. Hammon claims the tweak bill “removes confusing language and makes the law easier to enforce,” opponents assert that no amount of tweaking can fix this broken law and that the only solution is a full repeal. HB 658 is now pending in the state Senate which is expected to take up the bill this week.

HB658′s changes to Alabama’s immigration law include:

  • Limits “papers please” provision (which allows local law enforcement officers to check immigration status of those “reasonably suspected” of being undocumented during a traffic stop) to instances when the officer is actually making an arrest or issuing a traffic citation;
  • Limits the application of “business transaction” provision (which makes it a crime to enter into business contracts with the state) to drivers license or business license (not utilities or marriage licenses);
  • Strikes a ban on renting property to undocumented immigrants;
  • Exempts religious organizations from provision that makes it a crime to harbor or transport undocumented immigrants;
  • Clarifies that contracts entered into prior to HB56 are exempt from contract provision (which says courts shall not enforce contracts between a party and undocumented immigrant); and
  • Replaces provision requiring schools to collect information on students immigration status at time of enrollment with provision requiring state superintendent to compile report on how much undocumented immigrants cost school district

However, HB 658 expands provisions of HB 56 by:

  • Increasing penalties for failure to carry immigration papers; and
  • Allowing law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of other people in an automobile when the driver is “reasonably suspected” to be undocumented

Although Rep. Hammon commented that he wants to further revise these changes in Senate bills, opponents aren’t convinced these changes will do anything to curb the economic problems and potential for racial profiling brought resulting from the law.

“It’s still a bad bill. You can’t dress up something that wasn’t good from the beginning,” said Rep. A.J. McCampbell of Linden.

“You cannot make bad legislation good legislation by just trying to tack on amendments here and there,” Rep. Yvonne Kennedy said.

“My 16-year-old daughter should not be asked for her identification because I was speeding,” Rep. Napoleon Bracy of Prichard said. “If you were a white person that was a passenger in the car, you wouldn’t be subject to this. That is where the racial profiling comes in.”

“I don’t think Rep. Hammon has ever been a victim of racial profiling,” Bracy said. “He would have to be a victim of racial profiling to understand where we’re coming from.”

Many key provisions of Alabama’s law have been temporarily enjoined by the courts. A three-judge panel from the Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit  said they would not issue an opinion on Alabama’s immigration law until after the Supreme Court ruled on Arizona’s SB1070—arguments for which were heard last week.

Photo by imagesandmore.

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