Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) yesterday admitted that the state’s worst-in-the-nation immigration law needs changes. Gov. Bentley’s comments come after continued stories criticizing the economic catastrophe for Alabama agriculture, burdensome new requirements forced upon Alabama small businesses, and damage to the state’s reputation as a place foreign companies could feel comfortable investing. Undoubtedly responding to pressure and fears from these audiences, Bentley yesterday suggested efforts to “simplify” the bill. However, cosmetic changes will not be enough.
Said Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund:
Alabama’s immigration law doesn’t need simplifying, it needs to be repealed. Alabama’s immigration law continues to drive the state in the wrong direction, conjuring up the worst images of its intolerant past and making the state an unattractive location for out-of-state and international investment. For any Alabama resident or elected official who cares about moving the state in a forward direction, small tweaks to the law will not be enough.
We did pass a very complicated bill…It’s not a bad bill. It’s just somewhat confusing and it’s difficult to explain to people…We’ve been doing this behind the scenes…I do believe we need to simplify this bill.
As the Birmingham News editorialized today in a piece criticizing the immigration law’s damage to the state:
U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions and two other Southern senators are pushing legislation that would bar the Justice Department from suing Alabama and other states over their immigration laws. The Justice Department argues, and we believe rightly so, that it is responsible for enforcing immigration laws and that a hodgepodge of uneven state laws will be impossible to deal with. Sessions would do better to convince his colleagues in Congress to approve comprehensive immigration reform instead of deflecting attention from Congress’ role in helping to solve this national problem. But there’s no movement on an immigration bill, just politics.
While it’s heartening that Governor Bentley is responding to pressure and feels the need to address major business audiences, nothing short of repeal will be able to undo the damage of the state’s self-inflicted wound. And instead of a public speech promising no real reforms, Gov. Bentley should make private calls to Alabama elected officials in Washington, like Rep. Mo Brooks and Sen. Jeff Sessions, both of whom rail against federal failure to fix the broken immigration system, then block the very immigration reform proposals that would do just that.
For more about Alabama and HB 56, view: