Julianne Hing of ColorLines is reporting that Alabama may soon be home to the nation’s harshest anti-immigrant state law after its state legislature passed an anti-immigrant omnibus bill called HB 56 last Thursday. The bill contains nearly every major anti-immigrant provision that localities and states have attempted to pass in the last few years.
Like Arizona’s SB 1070, the bill mandates that police investigate and detain anyone they have “reasonable suspicion” to believe may be undocumented. It also contains provisions that are commonplace among anti-immigrant laws: It spells out explicitly that undocumented immigrants may not access public benefits. It mandates that the state take part in E-Verify, the flawed federal employment-verification system. It forbids people from hiring, harboring or giving a ride to undocumented immigrants and forbids landlords from renting property to undocumented immigrants.
HB 56 contains a few especially harsh provisions. Under the current bill, undocumented immigrants who enter into any kind of contract would not be able to have the contract enforced because of their immigration status. And in a new twist on the attack on immigrants’ education rights, primary and secondary schools would be required to verify the immigration status of students and parents, who would have to go to their children’s schools to provide an affidavit. The bill would also bar undocumented immigrant students from enrolling in any of Alabama’s public colleges and universities.
The bill will in effect criminalize every aspect of life for undocumented immigrants.
“This is an Arizona bill with an Alabama twist,” Alabama Rep. Micky Hammon, one of the bill’s proponents, has said.
Already, civil and immigrant rights groups, including the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center, have said that they are studying the provisions of the bill and are ready to challenge it should it become law. “It’s a sad state of affairs when lawmakers take pride in one-upping another state that has now become notorious for inviting racial profiling to the state,” said Vivek Malhotra, advocacy and policy counsel for the ACLU.
Alabama’s anti-immigrant bill is the strictest to date. It is awaiting the signature or veto of Gov. Robert Bentley. Perhaps he’ll take a page from Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona, who surprised many when she vetoed Arizona’s Birther bill.
We’d like to propose that if HB 56 is signed into law, then it will apply retroactively to all immigrants, starting with those who founded this country. We suspect that there would be mass deportations, not to mention the nullification of countless diplomas and degrees. That idea sounds ridiculous at best and harsh at worst — sort of like HB 56.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: A clear, affordable and equitably applied path to citizenship would be much better for the country and the immigrants who already live here.