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Reviews Are in for Alabama’s New Immigration Legislation: It’s Still Juan Crow.

by Mahwish Khan on 04/09/2012 at 3:24pm

Tomorrow, leaders from the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice (ACIJ) are holding a press conference at 10 AM CT to speak about Alabama’s anti-immigrant law and to outline their plan of action to deal with proposed changes to HB 56.  Check back in tomorrow for our report on the ACIJ presser.

In the meantime, the reaction to the legislation, which was unveiled last week, has been generally negative. This isn’t a repeal — and it isn’t even close to a fix. In fact, as several observers note, the new language would make sections of Alabama’s already heinous immigration laws even worse.

Brian Lyman at The Montgomery Advertiser points out the way the bill gets worse:

Long-promised revisions to the state’s controversial immigration law were filed Thursday afternoon, with one significantly expanding provisions allowing officers to detain those they have “reasonable suspicion” of being in the country unlawfully.

Under the current law, police could apply “reasonable suspicion” to the individual arrested or cited during a traffic stop. The new bill would allow law enforcement to detain anyone else in the vehicle.

That’s not what we were hoping for. An article in The News Courier provided reaction from several sources, including some of our allies:

An attorney for an Episcopal bishop challenging the law in federal court, Kitty Rogers Brown, said the changes are a sign that state officials are listening to religious leaders, but the changes don’t go far enough.

Religious leaders are even running a hard-hitting TV ad to fight back against HB 56.  More from The Courier News:

Mary Bauer, legal director of the Southern Poverty Law Center, called the bill “a half-hearted response to the economic and humanitarian crisis that is gripping our state.”

Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center for Community Change, said, “No amount of revising or tinkering made to this anti-immigrant bill can fix it. Repealing it is the only option.”

Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, a Washington-based immigration reform organization, said the underlying premise of the law remains the same — to use racial profiling and discrimination to pursue Alabama’s goal of mass expulsion. He added the law is akin to the “humanitarian and economic crisis” that recalls Jim/Juan Crow laws.

At Think Progress, Amanda Peterson Beadle says:

HB 56 is hurting the state’s residents as well as its image to the rest of the world. Fully repealing the bill would be the best option — several lawmakers introduced a bill to do just that — and taking out some of the most harmful provisions helps. But adding another layer to HB 56 that puts more people at risk of being profiled is a big step backwards.

From the Birmingham News editorial page:

There are other proposed changes, but, sadly, House sponsor Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, and Senate sponsor Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, and legislative leaders can still tout HB 658 as the nation’s toughest immigration law. They enthusiastically say the revisions make the immigration law stronger and more easy to enforce.

That tough-guy rhetoric is what economic recruiters in states without a law like Alabama’s will bludgeon the state with whenever a prospect comes hunting. It’s what UAB officials have to deal with when they’re trying to lure a talented physician, researcher or faculty member to the nation’s third most diverse university campus. And the law will deter undocumented people who are victims of crimes from contact with law-enforcement officers, making them even better targets for criminals.

The immigration law remains overreaching. It is still harsh. Alabama remains a “show your papers” state.

That’s what Scott Beason and his anti-immigrant colleagues in the Legislature want — despite the harm it’s doing to their state.

Last week, as we noted, Mississippi’s legislature shelved an HB 56-type anti-immigrant bill. That led Joey Kennedy from The Birmingham News to opine:

As bad as our Legislature is, I never thought I’d have to say that even Mississippi’s Legislature is smarter than ours. But it is, at least where immigration policy is concerned.

Alabama’s legislature has the chance to fix the mess it has created. But, that’s not going to happen with the bill that got introduced last week. Not even close.

 

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