New Alabama Anti-Immigrant Law Condemned by ACLU as a "Step Backward"

May 16, 2012 12:00 am

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Legislature’s Revision Leaves Worst Aspects of Draconian Law Intact

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Contact: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org

MONTGOMERY, AL – Alabama lawmakers today approved a slightly revised version to its notorious anti-immigration law, which the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama said did nothing to address the many flaws in the measure.

The bill was passed by both houses of the Alabama legislature and will now go to Governor Robert Bentley for signature.

“Alabama took a step backward in approving this ill-conceived measure,” said Olivia Turner, executive director of the ACLU of Alabama. “Lawmakers were deaf to the concerns of many residents, business owners and police who realize this law is a bad idea. Alabama will continue to pay a severe price for a law that is almost impossible to enforce properly and blatantly unconstitutional.”

Instead of meaningful reforms, Turner said, the bill:

• Maintains the requirement from the original bill, HB56, that schools check the citizenship status of their students.
• Continues to require police to detain and arrest people based only on a reasonable suspicion that they are undocumented immigrants. Turner said that would further tax overcrowded jails and strain the resources of law enforcement agencies already strapped for funds.
• Undermines public safety by failing to provide adequate protection for crime victims after they cooperate with law enforcement, thereby discouraging them from reporting crime for fear of being questioned about their immigration status.
• Continues to ban landlords from renting to undocumented immigrants.
• Creates a “Scarlet Letter” provision that would require the state Department of Homeland Security to publish on its website the names and locations of undocumented immigrants who have appeared in state courts.

“The Alabama Legislature has done virtually nothing to solve the civil rights disaster they created,” said Cecillia Wang, director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. “Two federal courts have already blocked key provisions of the law from going into effect, because they violate the U.S. Constitution. If the Alabama legislature wants to avoid a loss, they should repeal the law.”

The federal 11th Circuit Court of Appeals blocked two provisions of HB56 on March 8. One voided contracts signed by undocumented immigrants. The other bans undocumented immigrants from obtaining licenses and certain other services from Alabama. The appeals court and a lower court had previously blocked other provisions of the law from going into effect.

The ACLU and a coalition of civil rights groups appeared before the 11th Circuit on March 1 and argued that HB56 and a similar law in Georgia endanger public safety; invite racial profiling of Latinos, Asians, and others who appear foreign; and interfere with federal law. The court said it would not rule until after the U.S. Supreme Court issues its decision in the challenge to Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, SB 1070. That ruling is expected in late June.

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