Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Alabama Passes Controversial Illegal Immigration Law

Alabama State House
On Thursday, June 9, Governor Robert Bentley signed into law Act Number 2011-535, which will institute very strong measures to curb illegal immigration in the state. It is set to go in effect on September 1, 2011. As reported in the Birmingham News, the law includes the following provisions:

• Individuals will be required to show proof of legal residence on the job, at school, and when obtaining state benefits.
• Employers will be required to consult the federal E-Verify system to check applicants' legal resident status.
• Courts must void contracts involving undocumented immigrants.
• Police may arrest anyone on reasonable suspicion they are in the country illegally.
• Anyone transporting or providing housing to a known illegal immigrant may be charged with a crime.

Supporters of the law characterize it as a means of making more jobs available for legal residents as well as a way to save the state money by limiting illegal residents’ access to public services. Detractors argue that it will encourage racial profiling in law enforcement and serve as an expensive distraction for already cash strapped police forces. Both sides agree, however, that it constitutes, thus far, the most restrictive state immigration legislation in United States history.

You may have seen this law referred to as HB56. That is because it originated as a bill introduced in the Alabama House of Representatives on March 1, 2011. The bill’s sponsor was Representative Micky Hammon of Decatur. A similar bill, SB256, was introduced in the Alabama State Senate by Senator Scott Beason of Gardendale on March 22. The final piece of legislation was approved by a bicameral conference committee on June 2, 2011 and sent to the governor bearing the title, Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act . A complete legislative history of the act is available on ALISON, the Alabama Legislative Information System Online, and on OpenBama.org.

Although the Alabama law has received much national attention, it is not the only piece of state legislation recently introduced regarding illegal immigration. The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that, in the first of quarter of this year, over 1500 bills and resolutions covering various topics related to immigration were introduced in legislatures in all 50 states, plus Puerto Rico. Click here for the full report.

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