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Alabama's bad road on immigration

Editorial

The state's tough immigration law is reinforced, in picayune ways, doing further damage to the state's reputation.

May 24, 2012
  • Protesters march outside the Alabama Capitol in Montgomery, Ala. during a demonstration against the state's immigration laws.
Protesters march outside the Alabama Capitol in Montgomery, Ala. during… (Dave Martin / Associated…)

Apparently, Alabama lawmakers felt they hadn't gone far enough last year when they enacted the most draconian immigration law in the nation, which, among other things, required schools to determine the immigration status of their students. Now, the Legislature has revised the law to ensure that it does further damage to the state's reputation and stirs even more fear among Latinos.

Under the revised law, known as HB 658, all undocumented immigrants who appear in court for any violation of state law will find their names published on the official state website, along with the names of the judges assigned to their cases and the dispositions. It's hard to imagine what useful purpose such information might provide other than to shame immigrants and to allow anti-immigrant groups to exert pressure on judges.

Another new provision requires the state's Department of Homeland Security to compile an annual progress report updating the Legislature on how efforts to rid Alabama of illegal immigrants are coming along. That will make little difference in the life of most Alabamians, since less than 2% of the state's residents are believed to be in the country illegally.

The changes came during a special session in which Gov. Robert J. Bentleyhad sought to soften the law by removing some of its worst provisions, several of which have led to federal lawsuits. The Justice Department has already sued the state, as it has Arizona, arguing that the law interferes with the federal government's sole authority to regulate immigration. But state Sen. Scott Beason and state Rep. Micky Hammon chose to ignore the more moderate voices, including law enforcement groups and farmers, who rightfully worry that the law is harming, not helping, the state. Those fears are well-founded. Since the law was passed, growers have reported labor shortages that have led to rotting crops and financial losses.

Sadly, the Alabama Legislature once again proved itself incapable of embarrassment. How else can it say the revisions were needed to protect residents and save jobs? The only thing lawmakers and the governor achieved with HB 658 was to add another dark chapter to Alabama's troubled history.

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