Crack down on illegal immigrants
MONTGOMERY – The southern US state of Alabama has passed a sweeping bill to crack down on illegal Caribbean and other immigrants, that both supporters and opponents call the toughest of its kind in the country.
Observers say it goes well beyond a law Arizona passed last year that caused a furore there.
The measure was passed by large margins in the Republican-controlled Alabama Senate and the House of Representatives. Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, a Republican, is expected to sign the bill into law.
The Alabama bill includes a provision similar to one that stirred controversy in Arizona, authorizing state and local police officers to ask about the immigration status of anyone they stop, based on a “reasonable suspicion” the person is an illegal immigrant. Federal courts have suspended most of that Arizona law.
However, Alabama’s bill goes beyond Arizona’s. It bars illegal immigrants from enrolling in any public college after high school. 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 also 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. In addition, the it makes it a crime to knowingly rent housing to an illegal immigrant and bars businesses from taking tax deductions on wages paid to unauthorized immigrants.
“Alabama is now the new number one state for immigration enforcement,” said Kris Kobach, a constitutional lawyer, who is secretary of state in Kansas.
Representative Micky Hammon, a Republican who was a chief sponsor of the bill, described it as “a jobs-creation bill for Americans”.
“We really want to prevent illegal immigrants from coming to Alabama and to prevent those who are here from putting down roots,” he added.
But Cecillia Wang, director of the immigrants’ rights project of the American Civil Liberties Union, which has brought legal challenges against several state immigration-control laws, said the bill “invites discrimination into every aspect of the lives of people in Alabama.”
Calling it “outrageous and blatantly unconstitutional”, Wang said: “We will take action if the governor signs it.”
The passage of the Alabama bill comes as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced last week that he was suspending the state’s participation in a US federal immigration enforcement plan that seeks to deport Caribbean and other immigrants.
He said there is “mounting evidence” that the programme, called Secure Communities, has not only failed to meet its goal of deporting the most serious immigrant criminals but is also undermining law enforcement and compromising public safety.
“There are concerns about the implementation of the program, as well as its impact on families, immigrant communities and law enforcement in New York,” he said in a statement.
Unless those concerns are eased, Cuomo said New York will not take part.
His decision makes New York the second state to announce its intention to withdraw from the program, setting up a confrontation with the Obama administration, which has made Secure Communities a cornerstone of immigration enforcement strategy.
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn said in May that he was cancelling his state’s participation in the programme.