Progress on tweaks to Alabama’s toughest-in-the-nation anti-immigration law has hit a wall a day after a failed attempt to repeal the law in the Alabama Senate.
Rep. Micky Hammon, Alabama House sponsor of the original Alabama anti-immigration law, proposed and helped pass a list of tweaks to the law in the Alabama House. But the Montgomery Advertiser reported Thursday that Hammon (R-Decatur) is not happy with changes made to the bill by Sen. Scott Beason (R-Gardendale), the Senate sponsor of the original immigration law.
Sen. Beason’s rewrite bill is no longer expected to make it to the Senate floor on Thursday.
Beason said Wednesday that the goal of his rewrite is to deal with some of the complaints against the law, including those made by senators who want to repeal the law. He also said his rewrite would not make substantial changes to sections of the law under consideration by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals or the sections that are similar to Arizona’s immigration law, SB1070, which is currently under consideration by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Beason blamed some of the trouble with HB56 on the law’s opponents. “There was some misinterpretation and I think some going overboard with hyperboles, what-ifs, maybes, taking to a distant place that I don’t think common sense or rational thought was involved in some of the assumptions they came up with,” Beason said.
The bill was carried over on Wednesday after Beason allowed Sen. Billy Beasley (D-Clayton) to attempt to repeal the immigration law. Beasley and several other senators spoke in favor of repealing the law.
“When this bill came before the body last year, I thought it was an unjust law, I thought it was a punitive law, and I thought it was a law that was not necessary,” Beasley said. He said immigration should be regulated by the federal government. He also called HB56 “mean-spirited” and worried about the costs Alabama would shoulder defending the law in court.
Beasley attacked many aspects of the law, including prohibitions against harboring and transporting illegal immigrants, prohibitions on undocumented immigrants attending public universities, the traffic stop provisions that allow a law officer to detain and check the citizenship of someone they pull over, the ability to report state and municipal agencies for not enforcing the immigration law, and the requirement that schools collect information about the citizenship status of students and make a report to the state Board of Education.
“Why did Hispanics come to Alabama?” Beasley asked his fellow senators. “They came to Alabama for one reason—to have a better way of life. It’s one thing we provide in Alabama and it’s also something we provide in the United States of America, and that is an opportunity to come to this great country we live in and this great state that we live in to where we could provide for our families, our children and get good jobs.”
“What did this immigration law do for Alabama?” Beasley asked. “It set Alabama with an image that all the folks in the media markets throughout Alabama, throughout the southeast, Washington D.C.—they said ‘There goes Alabama again, just demagoguing everything they can demagogue, to see if they can’t discriminate on folks that have different color from other folks in Alabama.’ And I think that’s wrong,” Beasley said.
Sen. Roger Bedford also spoke in favor of repealing HB56. “This has become a symbol of racial prejudice in Alabama,” Bedford said Wednesday. Bedford (D-Russellville) said voting for the immigration law in 2011 was the worst vote he’s ever made. “It’s hurting us with economic development. It’s hurting the image of this state. It brings us back to the days of Bull Connor and the marches and the hoses and the dogs.”
“Picking on people because of the color of their skin has never served this state well, or the country well,” Bedford said.
Sens. Hank Sanders (D-Selma), Quinton Ross (D-Montgomery), Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro), Rodger Smitherman (D-Birmingham), Harri Anne Smith (I-Slocumb) also took to the podium to argue for repeal.
The motion to substitute Beasley’s repeal bill failed Wednesday with 14 ayes and 20 nays. All the nay votes came from Republicans. Sens. Gerald Dial (R-Lineville) and Smith joined Democrats in supporting repeal.