Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) signed into law a new “papers, please” immigration bill that is a new low point for state-based immigration policy, an unfortunate reminder of Alabama and the South’s tortured racial history, and another wake-up call to Washington to fix the broken immigration system.
The Los Angeles Times wrote:
The new law, combined with legislation passed in May by neighboring Georgia, has arguably made this swath of the Deep South the nation’s hottest immigration battleground, with the region’s troubled racial history fueling the fire.
The Alabama bill … is modeled on SB 1070 (it copies some portions of Arizona’s 17-page law verbatim). Like SB1070, the anti-immigrant law in Alabama would:
Allow local law enforcement to demand papers from and detain those they believe are in the country illegally.
Make it a crime for undocumented immigrants to hold a job in Alabama, and make it a crime for any immigrant in the state to be caught without documentation proving status.
Make it illegal to sign a contract with undocumented immigrants, to knowingly rent property to them, to knowingly hire them for jobs.
Require businesses to use E-Verify, the government database of names, to check employees’ legal status.
Unlike the immigration laws that have come before it, Alabama’s monster also would also take on education, by outright barring undocumented immigrants from enrolling in any public college after high school. It would force parents to report the immigration status of their children to public schools, so that the schools could keep legal status records of all their students and document the costs of educating undocumented children.
And Wade Henderson, President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, aptly noted:
This draconian initiative signed into law this morning by Gov. Robert Bentley is so oppressive that even Bull Connor himself would be impressed…HB 56 is designed to do nothing more than terrorize the state’s Latino community.
Leave it to Alabama to witness the economic and civic toll incurred by Arizona and decide not only to model itself after that state’s law, but to go a step beyond. Yet by turning elementary school teachers into immigration agents, that’s exactly what they have done.
Without a Washington fix, the immigration debate will keep spiraling in a dangerous direction.