“I will do anything short of shooting them. Anything that is lawful, it needs to be done.”
-Mo Brooks, Alabama Congressman (R) on illegal immigrants
While debates brew and tempers flare over the anti-immigration law in Arizona, many other states have quietly passed some of the most radical pieces of anti-immigration legislation to date. Most alarming is Alabama’s. More radical than the Arizona law, this law strikes even more deeply at the basic rights of immigrants, and appears to have the underlying goal of bringing the immigration discussion to the national stage in a very loud and reckless way.
Provisions of the law (HB-56) include:
- Similar to the Arizona law, it makes it a crime for “undocumented immigrants to be without the required documents,” and makes it a requirement of law enforcement officers to “attempt to determine an individual’s immigration status during a ‘lawful stop, detention or arrest’ when there is ‘reasonable suspicion’ that the individual is an illegal alien” (from law).
- Parents will have to report their residency status and their child’s residency status when enrolling their child in school. Illegal immigrants will be allowed to attend schools, but schools will report the information collected to the state.
- A ban on illegal immigrants attending any public college or university
- A ban on transporting, harboring, or renting property to undocumented immigrants.
- Employers will have to check all potential employees through Everify before hiring, and will be fined if they do not.
- A ban on businesses taking tax deductions on wages paid to illegal immigrants.
The first provision, which is similar to the Arizona law, is extremely alarming as is. Many have labeled it as a form of racial profiling, and even the Arizona Supreme Court declared in United States v. Brignoni-Ponce, “enforcement of immigration laws often involves a relevant consideration of ethnic factors.” This suggests that the Arizona law requires some evaluation of ethnicity in order to be effective, and implies that illegal and legal immigrants will most likely be viewed in the same light, and treated the same. In this way, both the Arizona law and Alabama law allow for some form of discrimination on the part of law enforcement officials, though the Alabama law takes it a few steps further.
The provision in the Alabama law requiring families to verify their residency status to schools has startling implications for children attending schools. If a child were born in the United States (and thus a citizen), but had parents who were illegal aliens, his parents would have reason not to send him to school so as to not expose their immigration status to the state. If the child and his parents decide to risk it anyways and have the child go to school, they face further risks. The child cannot drive his parents anywhere for fear of violating the “ban on transportation” clause in the law, and if the parents drive the child to school, they face the risk of being pulled over under “reasonable suspicion” of being an illegal alien. Because of these risks, many will most likely not go through the trouble. If an illegal immigrant does stay in school though, he faces the problem of being already profiled by the school as an alien, and once graduating, receives the slap in the face of not being able to attend any public college or university. Again, many may not deem it worth it to go through all the trouble and then not even be able to attend college. In these ways, the Alabama law is directly discouraging children from receiving an education.
A lawsuit filed against the state of Alabama regarding a parent adopting illegal immigrant children highlights further implications of this law. The plaintiff in the case adopted two children who were illegal immigrants. He went through the adoption process, which took only a few weeks. Because the waiting process for adopted children to obtain legal status ranges from 1-3 years though, the plaintiff, an American citizen, would be unable to drive his children anywhere when this law is in effect for fear of being seen as “harboring” illegal immigrants. While merely taking care of his children, this man could receive a fine and potentially a blemish on his record. Because of such consequences, this law largely makes the adoption of illegal immigrants illegal.
Supporters continually point to the benefits of job creation, but from a business standpoint, the benefits might not even be that great. Because of the harsh restrictions, companies will now be giving workers much higher salaries to do jobs that illegal immigrants did for much cheaper. Jobs may increase to a degree, but businesses will undoubtedly scale back on the number of workers they hire because of the higher wages they must dole out, and at the same time, prices of products may increase, as the costs of production for businesses increase. With more legal workers but less workers than before, output may drop in many farms or factories, and this paired with rising prices could potentially lead to huge problems in today’s economic climate.
Many throughout the state oppose this bill on the simple base that it would render the idea of being a “good Samaritan” illegal. Giving an alien a ride to work or giving them a place to sleep would now be illegal in Alabama. This will undoubtedly spark racial profiling, as anyone who may be suspected of being an illegal immigrant, or in many cases, anyone who appears to be Hispanic, will be refused rides, a home to rent, or even a home for the night, even at places like churches or temples.
In a state with the lowest population of foreign born citizens (2.9%, with many of them being legal – according to recent census data), why such extreme measures? This bill passed by an overwhelming majority in both the Alabama State House and State Senate, where Republicans hold commanding majorities. Voting largely went along party lines, and maybe in this lies the answer. This issue is quite obviously a political one, and in Alabama, Republicans saw an opportunity to yet again highlight the hypocrisy of their own party. While continually clamoring for small government in fiscal situations, in social situations like immigration, Republicans did not even blink as they used “government” to decide who and who cannot attend school, who and who cannot help who…but I digress.
In general, this law seems to be attacking the immigration problem at the completely wrong angle. Laws like these discourage immigrants from phoning in crimes to the police in fear of being deported, discourage them from attending schools, and discourage others from helping them. With other states like Georgia, Florida, and of course, Arizona, passing similarly extreme anti-immigration laws though, it appears that this trend may continue. All one can do is hope that measures such as Delaware’s proposed version of the DREAM Act can help turn the conversation in a different direction, and wait for President Obama to realize what type of injustice is occurring throughout this country.