With Arizona's controversial immigration law mired in a court challenge, attention is shifting to Alabama, where the Legislature has sent Governor Robert Bentley a measure that is even tougher than last year's well-publicized crackdown on undocumented residents in Arizona.
Alabama's GOP-led state House and Senate approved the new measure last week. If signed by Bentley, who is also Republican, it will make Alabama "the new No. 1 state for immigration enforcement," according to Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state who helped draft the Arizona bill and has been pushing similar changes around the country.
The New York Times reports that the Alabama proposal goes "well beyond" Arizona's law :
"It bars illegal immigrants from enrolling in any public college after high school," the paper reports. "It obliges public schools to determine the immigration status of all students, requiring parents of foreign-born students to report the immigration status of their children. The bill requires Alabama's public schools to publish figures on the number of immigrants — both legal and illegal — who are enrolled and on any costs associated with the education of illegal immigrant children. The bill, known as H.B. 56, also makes it a crime to knowingly rent housing to an illegal immigrant. It bars businesses from taking tax deductions on wages paid to unauthorized immigrants."
With HB 56, Alabama would join Georgia as the only states to pass Arizona-style immigration changes this year, despite expectations at the beginning of many legislative sessions that such laws would be common. The Associated Press
reported recently that such efforts fizzled for a number of reasons:
"Many measures were set aside so lawmakers could focus on pressing budget crises," the wire service noted, "but immigrants have also developed more sophisticated lobbying efforts, and business owners came out strongly against tougher sanctions. Some worried about losing sources of labor and gaining extra paperwork. Others feared tourism boycotts like the one organized against Arizona."