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Editorial Writers to Alabama: Stop Making Things Worse

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Alabama Governor Robert Bentley pulled a complete reversal on HB 658 last weekend, caving in and signing a bill that makes the state’s already harsh anti-immigrant policies even worse–after he had initially expressed reservations and a wish to see the bill revised.  Since then, leading editorial writers in Alabama and across the nation have been scathing in their criticism.

Alabama’s largest paper The Birmingham News wrote:

For a few minutes, Gov. Robert Bentley sounded strong and encouraging. He sounded like he was going to lead on an important issue.  Alas, it didn’t last long. The governor reverted to pushover and went ahead and signed a terrible rewrite of the state’s harsh immigration law.  Bentley could have killed it. He could have forced the Legislature to make real improvements in the special session under way right now.  But when lawmakers balked at dealing with more immigration law revisions in the special session, Bentley folded like a card table.  It’s understandable why lawmakers would want this issue to just go away.  The harsh immigration law, HB 56, that passed last year wrecked Alabama’s reputation as a place to locate a business or visit. National and international attention focused on how intolerant Alabama was, and ugly images of the state’s past resurfaced.  The revised immigration law passed last week, HB 658, is far from what was originally written. State Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, took over the bill when it got to the Senate and rewrote it.  Bentley and Republican leaders agreed HB 56 needed clarification and simplification.  What passed last week is an even more complex law… Bentley missed a chance to stand tall and stop this immigration madness.  For Alabama, that’s too bad.

New York Times editorial writer Lawrence Downes echoes:

After all that talk about wanting to ‘simplify and clarify’ last year’s radically awful immigration law, Alabama’s legislature doubled down last week.  It passed a bill, H.B. 658, to make things worse.  One new provision requires schools to collect immigration data from students — even though a federal court has blocked a similar section in last year’s law.  Another requires the state to publish online the names of all undocumented immigrants who appear in court.  It’s a scarlet-letter database to accomplish — what, exactly, beyond public shaming?  It’s hard to know, though immigrant advocates fear, plausibly, that it will heighten the risk of vigilantism…It was up to Gov. Robert Bentley last week to save his state from another round of self-destruction. He had previously signaled that he didn’t like the new provisions in the bill and might veto it.  In the end, what did he do?  Why, he signed it, of course, and called it progress.

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