Alabama Legislature Passes Anti-Illegal Immigration Bill

By Chad Burchard | June 8, 2011

Last Thursday the Alabama state legislature voted to pass House Bill 56, which contains a host of measures aimed at discouraging illegal immigration. The bill was passed by overwhelming majorities in both chambers. The Alabama House voted 67-29 and the Senate 25-7 in favor of the legislation.

Alabama State Representative Micky Hammon, the bill’s chief sponsor, calls the legislation “a jobs-creation bill for Americans.” [Julia Preston, In Alabama, a Harsh Bill for Residents Here Illegally, The New York Times, June 3, 2011].

The bill’s passage comes exactly one week after the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-3 to uphold the Legal Arizona Workers Act of 2007 (LAWA), which imposes state penalties on employers who knowingly or intentionally hire illegal aliens and mandates the use of E-Verify (a federal internet-based identity verification system) for all employers. Arizona’s other more controversial anti-illegal immigration law, S.B. 1070, is still working its way through the courts.

The bill’s opponents are expected to sue if the state’s governor, Dr. Robert Bently, signs H.B. 56 into law. Cecilia Wang, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, was quoted in The New York Times as saying that the Alabama legislation “invites discrimination into every aspect of the lives of people in Alabama” and pledging that her organization “will take action if the governor signs it.” [Julia Preston, In Alabama, a Harsh Bill for Residents Here Illegally, The New York Times, June 3, 2011].

The Alabama bill follows Arizona’s lead in a number of ways. Back in 2004, Arizonans voted by a large majority to pass Proposition 200, a ballot initiative denying public benefits to illegal aliens. House Bill 56 does the same.

Like Arizona’s S.B. 1070, Alabama’s H.B. 56 bars state or local officials from adopting “sanctuary city” policies (i.e., officially or unofficially refusing to enforce federal immigration law) and allows for civil suits against such policies.

Likewise, both H.B. 56 and S.B. 1070 criminalize harboring or transporting illegal immigrants, an immigrant’s willful failure to carry their registration documents, and an illegal immigrant’s solicitation or performance of work. House Bill 56 also adopts LAWA’s key provisions, authorizing the state to revoke an employer’s business license as punishment for knowingly or intentionally hiring illegal workers and mandating that all employers use E-Verify. Nor does Alabama’s bill shy away from embracing the most controversial feature of S.B. 1070: the much maligned “verification requirement,” under which state and local police (pursuant to a lawful stop, detention, or arrest) are required to inquire about a person’s immigration status if there is “reasonable suspicion” to believe that the person is an illegal immigrant.

Alabama did not follow Arizona’s lead in every aspect. The Alabama bill does not, unlike S.B. 1070, authorize state and local police to make a warrantless arrest when they have probable cause to believe that an illegal immigrant has committed a deportable offense.

Nevertheless, there are many ways in which H.B. 56 goes much farther than Arizona. The bill bars illegal aliens from enrolling in public state universities and requires primary and secondary public schools to determine the immigration status of their students.

The Alabama bill denies businesses the right to take any state tax deductions for wages paid to illegal immigrant employees or independent contractors and makes contracts (excluding those authorized by federal law) unenforceable where one party knows that the other is an illegal immigrant. In addition, H.B. 56 makes it an illegally discriminatory practice to hire someone an employer knows or reasonably should know is an illegal immigrant over an American or legal immigrant worker.

The combination of all of these different measures explains why Kansas Secretary of State and former law professor Kris Kobach, who helped craft the Alabama bill, was recently quoted in The New York Times as saying that “Alabama is now the new No. 1 state for immigration enforcement.” [Julia Preston, In Alabama, a Harsh Bill for Residents Here Illegally, The New York Times, June 3, 2011].

Kobach believes that H.B. 56 should be able to withstand a legal challenge: “I have worked closely with Senate and House leadership to ensure that the Alabama law is drafted carefully. It will pass judicial muster if the ACLU and the open-borders crowd decide to take Alabama to court.” [Phyllis Schlafley, Alabama’s Law on Immigrants Tops Arizona’s, Investor’s Business Daily, June 6, 2011].

As noted earlier, the ACLU has already made clear its intention of doing precisely that in the event that Gov. Bently signs the bill. If he does, another long, protracted legal battle seems likely.