Alabama Pushes for One of the Nation’s Harshest Anti-Immigrant Laws

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Alabama is bracing for what may soon be 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, which has been sent to Gov. Robert Bentley, awaits his signature or veto. Bentley has until Thursday to act on the bill, which 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 the immigration status. And in a new twist on the attack on immigrants’ education rights, primary and secondary schools will be required to verify the immigration status of students and parents, who will be required to go to their children’s schools to provide an affidavit. The bill also would 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 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 bill goes beyond what Arizona and other states have done to invite racial profiling to the state by mandating that police investigate people’s immigration status … by basically inviting discrimination into people’s everyday lives,” said Malhotra, adding that the restrictions on students’ access to education were “quite brazen,” even in a landscape of increasingly harsh state immigration bills.

 Read more here.