Alabama state Sen. Billy Beasley said today that repealing Alabama’s tough new immigration law, known as HB56, is an “uphill battle” in the Alabama Legislature, but repeal is the only option. Beasley, a Democrat from Clayton, prefiled a bill that would repeal HB56.
“I know it’s an uphill battle,” Beasley said on a conference call held Monday by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is fighting HB56 in federal court. “All 12 Democratic senators are for repealing the law, and we’ll just have to take it by day.”
Five Democratic senators joined with Republicans to pass HB56 at the end of 2011 legislative session. Beasley needs the support of 18 senators for his repeal bill, known as SB41, to pass the Senate.
“When the bill [HB56] came through the Senate, it had very limited debate,” Beasley said. “I felt at that time that it was a cruel law, that it was discriminatory, that it would create profiling.”
Beasley has three co-sponsors on his repeal bill, SB41: Sens. Vivian Davis Figures (D-Mobile), Priscilla Dunn (D-Bessemer) and Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham). Smitherman supported HB56 in 2011.
Beasley said that the chairman of the senate judiciary committee has assured him that SB41 will see a fair debate. But Republicans are not keen on repeal.
“I think that the mood among the Republicans in the Senate is that they want to tweak it and do some amendments and that sort of thing,” Beasley said.
If the Republicans in the Senate raise a bill to tweak the immigration law, Beasley said Democrats will try to amend it. Republicans currently control both houses of the Alabama Legislature.
“We’ll talk as long as we can, and we’ll try to make the necessary amendments to the bill as it goes through the process,” Beasley said.
“I just don’t think today that we need to create a symbol in the state of Alabama that sends a message out to the world that Alabama is going to treat people in a cruel manner,” Beasley said, and then referenced the Civil Rights Movements battles of the 1950s and 1960s.
“We don’t want to take our state back. We want to move our state forward.”
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated that Sen. Beasley was from Clanton, Ala. He is actually the senator from Clayton, Ala.