Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange has sent state legislative leaders a list of suggested changes for Alabama’s recently implemented immigration law, considered the strictest in the nation.
Strange wrote in a memo that he wanted to keep the law, known as HB 56, in place while at the same time making it less of a burden on Alabama citizens and easier to defend in court.
The major focus of the suggestions was to inhibit “unintended consequences” of the law and to clear up and properly define certain portions as well.
HB 56, titled the Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act, makes it a crime to transport, harbor, or shield an illegal immigrant. It also makes it illegal for any person to live or work in Alabama without documents verifying their legal status.
Justin Cox, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said Wednesday that even if the suggestions are adopted it would not be enough.
“Although we welcome any effort to lessen the inhumane impact of HB 56, the suggestions don't go nearly far enough, as they leave in place several of the worst provisions of the law and maintain Alabama's unconstitutional intent to drive immigrants out of the state,” said Cox.
“Nothing short of a full repeal can fix the countless problems with HB 56.”
Cox said that the ACLU opposes not only Alabama’s law but also others like it in other states because they believe the measures encourage racial profiling and conflict with federal law.
“Our immigration system undoubtedly has problems, but only the federal government can constitutionally address those issues,” said Cox.
He also mentioned that a crucial part of the opposition to the immigration has come from the faith community.
“Faith communities are an important part of the immigrants’ rights coalition, and they have helped highlight Alabama’s failure to treat all of its residents with compassion and humanity,” said Cox.
Many Alabama churches oppose the state’s new immigration law; Episcopal, Methodist, and Roman Catholic leaders filed a lawsuit against the law in August before it went into effect. They denounced it as the “nation’s most merciless” anti-immigration law, saying that it could bar Christian leaders from administering religious sacraments, such as Holy Communion, to illegal immigrants.
The National Association of Evangelicals, an organization representing over 45,000 churches from some 40 denominations, was also critical of the HB 56.
Galen Carey, NAE vice president for government relations, said that the answer to immigration reform has to be found at the federal level.
“The solution is not to have 50 state immigration policies, but to reform our federal law to make it workable and equitable,” said Carey.
“Alabama would do better to push for federal action on a workable mechanism for immigrants to earn legal status. This can involve paying a fine, undergoing background checks, learning English, and remaining in a provisional status until they qualify for permanent residency.”