In legal advice to the state’s legislative leadership, Alabama’s attorney general suggested that four sections of Alabama’s controversial immigration law be repealed, and that a total of 10 of law’s 34 sections be modified. The sections noted include several relating to education data collection, sanctuary city or agencies, enforcement provisions and others. The advice is intended to make the much-challenged law easier to implement and defend, but Republican legislators are resistant to drastic changes.
The memorandum from Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, which was dated Dec. 1, followed a meeting between Strange, Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh and House Speaker Mike Hubbard about two weeks ago during which the two legislative leaders asked that Strange put together a list of recommended changes to the immigration law, which is known as HB56.
“My goals are to (1) make the law easier to defend in court; (2) assist law enforcement in implementation; and (3) remove burdens on law abiding citizens,” Strange wrote. “All while not weakening the law.” The law is considered one of the toughest in the nation.
Strange also promised not to suggest policy in his recommendations, and noted his respect for “that separation of powers so strongly embedded in our Constitution.”
The attorney general suggested that the Legislature repeal Section 10, which “makes it a crime for an illegal alien to fail to carry registration documents,” noting that “the Eleventh Circuit [Court of Appeals] took the highly unusual step of enjoining it pending appeal,” a similar provision in Arizona’s immigration law has been blocked, and that it is already against federal law to fail to carry registration documents.
Section 28, which has also been blocked by the Eleventh Circuit, allows collection of data about the number of undocumented immigrants or their children in Alabama schools and requires a report of the costs of educating those students — both in fiscal terms and the effect on the quality of education on other students — to the Legislature, but makes it clear that those students cannot be denied a public education. Some have speculated that the purpose of this endless data collection was to eventually mount a legal challenge to a Supreme Court case, Plyler v. Doe, that effectively requires states to educate illegal immigratns. The attorney general’s letter lends some credence to that argument.
“It is my understanding that the purpose of Section 28 was to collect data for future litigation involving the State,” Strange wrote. “As chief law officer for the State, my judgment is that the costs of gathering this data at this point in time, in terms of diversion of resources and the effect this section has had on the current litigation, far outweigh any need to gather data for future litigation.
Strange suggested that section should be repealed.
Strange offered that the Legislature should repeal two other sections of HB56 — sections five and six — that require state officials, agencies and court officers at any level of Alabama’s bureaucracy to fully enforce federal and state immigration law. Those sections also threaten those same officials with getting their funding cut off and subject them to citizen-brought civil suits resulting in fines of $1,000 to $5,000 per day for failing to enforce immigration laws. This last part, the civil suits, are the primary reason behind Strange’s objection.
Sen. Scott Beason, who sponsored HB56 in the Senate, told the Birmingham News Tuesday that he had concerns that repealing sections five and six would weaken the law.
Significant altercations were suggested for two other sections. Section 13, which makes it illegal to transport or harbor illegal immigrants, should include an exception for religious activities, more closely mirror federal harboring law, and not include renting to an illegal alien as harboring, Strange wrote. Section 29, which includes measures to stop illegal aliens from voting, is “unnecessary” due to existing federal law, Strange wrote. He suggested that the section should be replaced “with a provision focused on education and enforcement of the existing citizenship requirements for voting.”
In total, Strange suggested changes to 10 of the HB56′s 34 sections.
While Speaker Hubbard has said he would be open to “tweaks” to the immigration law — which he said means “anything we find that is onerous to business, that takes time and money, that doesn’t serve a purpose” — he has said he’s not open to repealing it.
“Make no mistake, the Legislature is not going to repeal this law and have Alabama become a sanctuary state for illegal immigrants,” Todd Stacy, Hubbard’s communications director, wrote in a statement to Weld. “Speaker Hubbard is focused on making our illegal immigration law work better, clearing up misconceptions and correcting any portions that might be vague or require additional definitions. The goal is to ensure more efficient and less burdensome application of the law for businesses and local governments.”
Stacy said Hubbard’s office has received Strange’s memo, but, as of Tuesday evening, had not reviewed it.