Thursday, November 24, 2011

Federal judge blocks far-reaching part of Alabama immigration law

When I first read H.B. 56, Alabama's new immigration laws, it was a bill pending in the Alabama Legislature.  I noticed section 30 immediately as the most far-reaching provision in the bill, one I had not seen before, and one so draconian that it made the entire state of Alabama inhospitable to people who don't have their "papers."
I don't know who came up with the idea, but I suspect is was Chris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state.  I didn't see the provision in the laws passed by Arizona, Utah, Georgia or South Carolina.
Basically, section 30 provides that no state or local government agency may transact business, grant a license application, etc., unless it obtains proof of citizenship or legal residence before entering into the transaction. I'm not sure how I could find enough papers to prove my citizenship or legal residence, but I guess I'm going to have to try before it's time to renew my business license.
On November 23, U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson of the Middle District of Alabama, in Montgomery, issued a 10-page order blocking enforcement of section 30.  Two John Does had petitioned for a restraining order, stating that they had to renew registrations for the mobile homes by November 30, and enforcement of section 30 would drive their families from their homes.
Section 30 requires an alien's status to be verified using the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) online system, a program of the federal government. The system allegedly can tell you whether the person asking for some government service or benefit is legally present in the United States. I don't believe it, but that's what the system was designed to do.
The Elmore County revenue commissioner and probate judge testified at the November 23 hearing that they had not employed the system but were trying to develop one to comply with the law.
The lawsuit stated that the purpose of section 30 is to drive undocumented immigrants, "and in particular minority immigrants of Latino heritage, out of Alabama by making living conditions miserable for them or by funneling them into deportation proceedings."
Sen. Scott Beason of Gardendale and Rep. Mickey Hammon of Huntsville testified that the provision was aimed at undocumented immigrants, regardless of national origin. Hammon noted that some language in the bill forbids racial profiling.
Here's the lawyer talking:  I don't think an Alabama federal judge has yet closely examined the legislative record and legislative intent.

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