Alabama Senate Approves Chnges to HB56, Keeps Controversial Provisions
The Alabama senate has approved changes to the anti-immigrant bill HB56 but the provisions which would enable racial profiling have been left in tact.
(flickr: Larry Miller)
The Alabama Senate approved changes to the state’s controversial immigration law after a lengthy debate Thursday morning.
Prior to the vote, opponents of the law, known as HB 56, blocked a hallway leading into the chamber and were led away by Capitol Police.
The changes preserve most of the law, known as HB 56, and add a new provision that requires the Department of Homeland Security to post a quarterly list of the names of any undocumented alien who appears in court for a violation of state law, regardless of whether they were convicted. A second amendment would allow the use of a credit card or a voter ID to prove residence if a person does not have their state driver’s license available, a response to the arrest of a German Mercedes-Benz executive last November.
Senators voted to remove language that would allow the Alabama Department of Homeland Security the ability to demand proof of compliance from businesses accused of hiring undocumented aliens.
The changes, unlike the version passed by the House of Representatives on April 19, preserve most of the controversial sections of law. These include sections allowing law enforcement to check the status of those they have “reasonable suspicion” of being in the country unlawfully; language banning undocumented aliens from renting property and a requirement for schools to ask for the immigration status of students at time of enrollment.
The Senate’s approved changes also preserve current language prescribing a wide list of penalties for private businesses that knowingly hire undocumented aliens, up to the permanent revocation of a business license for mulitple violations.
“That was not enjoined, had not been challenged, and there’s not a need to change any of those,” said Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale.
The Homeland Security lists would be compiled by the Administrative Office of Courts. The provision has been labeled a “scarlet letter” by opponents. Beason compared it afterward to printing the arrests of people in local newspapers.
“We’re just asking for information,” he said. “That’s what that is, and we’re making that information public.”
But Justin Cox, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, which is suing the state over the law, disagreed, saying it invited “harassment and vigilantsm.”
The changes also include a new section requiring the Alabama Attorney General to defend any law enforcement who may be sued by the U.S. Department of Justice for enforcing HB 56.
Most amendments offered to the bill failed. Sen. Gerald Dial, R-Lineville, introduced an alternative substitute that would have removed the school data provision, saying educators in his district wanted to do “teaching, not policing.” Beason defended the provision.
“We’re not asking anybody do anything Alabama citizens are not required to do,” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, called the vote “a dark day in the history of the Senate dealing with this negative image of Alabama.”
“ICE has already said they’re not coming down to pick up these people,” he said. “It’s all about Republican racial politics rather than trying to do what’s right for Alabama.”
If the changs are approved, the House of Representatives will have to vote to concur; if it nonconcurs, a conference committee will be set up.
Seven protesters linked arms as senators returned to the chamber for the vote, singing “Amazing Grace,” “This Little Light of Mine” and “We Shall Overcome.” As Beason walked past, the protesters sang the “We Are Not Afraid” verse of “We Shall Overcome.” Protesters applauded Sen. Bill Beasley, D-Clayton, as he walked ; Beasley introduced legislation that sought repeal of the measure.