Many southern states have joined Arizona in passing anti-immigration legislation. Alabama’s HB56, which was passed in June, went into effect on Sept. 1 of this year. However, the bill is being met with stark conflict as a delegation of 10 U.S. House members paid a visit to the state’s capital in order to push for the bill’s repeal.
The group of lawmakers was all from the Democratic Party and met with local officials in Birmingham, and paid a visit to the historic 16th Street Baptist Church. The church was a symbolic site for the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s when four black girls were killed when a bomb was set off.
The movement to repeal HB56 is called One Family, One Alabama and is a project of the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice.
As a result of the mounting protest against the bill, including a lawsuit from the Department of Justice in August, more and more state lawmakers are saying they are willing to make changes to the legislation.
Part of the legislation seems to make proof of residency or citizenship a requirement for everyday tasks such as flu shots, garbage pick-up, renting a house, or enrolling in school. Primary schools, under this law, will be required to check a child’s immigration status as well as that of their parent’s. The law also prohibits a U.S. citizen from hiring, sheltering, or driving illegal immigrants. Citizens will also not be allowed to take an illegal immigrant to the hospital.
“We are working to make the bill more compassionate,” Republican Senator Gerald Dial of Lineville told The Christian Post.
“We need to amend the bill to make it so that if one citizen helps someone who happens to be an illegal, they won’t be charged with a felony. We need to have a Good Samaritan clause.”
He continued, “In response to the schools checking for immigration status, we should remove that part in the bill. We don’t want our schools to become the police.”
On Tuesday, 13 people were arrested in a protest against the law. Ten were released on a $300 bond each. There were arrested for sitting in the middle of the street across from the Alabama Statehouse, according to The Huffington Post. Most were undocumented students.
"We will discuss tweaking some definitions and making the law more user friendly, but we will not weaken the bill," the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Micky Hammon of Decatur, told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
“The longer the bill has been out, the more unintended consequences we have found,” said Slade Blackwell, a Republican state senator, to The New York Times. “All of us realize we need to change it.”
However, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley defends his state’s right to pass the bill. According to CNN, Bentley said that “if the federal government would have done its jobs and enforced the laws dealing with this problem,” the state law would not be needed.
In the DOJ’s complaint, the federal government said that it “welcomes cooperative efforts by states and localities to aid in the enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws.”