A new bill aimed at curbing illegal immigration is causing controversy in Alabama.
House Bill 56, modeled on similarly controversial immigration legislation in Arizona, passed the Alabama House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee today. That means it will move on to debate by the full House of Representatives as early as Thursday.
Here’s the lowdown on HB 56, which prompted opposition rallies in Montgomery even before it reached the committee vote.
It would require immigration status checks for workers
The Montgomery Advertiser reports that HB 56 would mandate use of the federal E-Verify system to confirm employees’ immigration status. Knowingly employing illegal aliens would be against the law under the bill, and employers who violate that provision could have their business licenses revoked. Some business owners say it’s not fair to make them responsible for such checks.
It would allow police officers to ask about immigration status
Under HB 56, law enforcement officials would be allowed to request proof of immigration status during stops, detentions or arrests if there is “reasonable suspicion” that an individual is an illegal alien. Opponents of the bill say this shifts the burden of immigration investigation from the federal government to local authorities who may not have sufficient funding or expertise for such matters, and raises the risk of racial profiling.
It could result in jail time and penalties
According to the Montgomery Advertiser, the bill would land people in jail until their immigration status could be verified. Those found to be in the country illegally could be charged with trespassing, a crime that can also carry jail time in Alabama.
It makes transportation a crime
Knowingly transporting an illegal alien, even to a doctor, would become a crime under HB 56.
It’s sponsored by House Majority Leader Micky Hammon
Rep. Micky Hammon, a Republican from Alabama’s 4th District, was elected Majority Leader in January 2011 after Republicans reclaimed the Alabama House in the 2010 elections. Hammond, who’s been in the legislature since 2002, chairs the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee. Since his election he has tried to gain support for immigration reform bills, including some that echoed the provisions currently under consideration in HB 56. In 2008 he told The Tuscaloosa News: “There are a lot of people who are against taking any kind of action. I’ve had to fight and compromise every step of the way.”