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Representative Jim McClendon Vows that state legislature: Will Not Weaken Immigration Bill

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

In an interview taken on December 7, 2011, Representative Jim McClendon, Republican from Springville, commented on the future of the immigration bill.

Rep. McClendon said that the Republican Alabama House Leadership, along with the Senate leadership, the Governor, and the Attorney General, and the overwhelming majority of Alabamians, had no intention of weakening controversial House Bill 56, which critics say is the harshest anti-illegal immigration bill in the entire country.  Alabama Representative Jim McClendon said “the last thing we want to do is to weaken the law.”

Rep. McClendon said that there would likely be changes made to the law.  McClendon said that it is not unusual for the legislature to have to tweak such a large omnibus bill due to “unintended consequences.”  McClendon said, “We have never done a large major bill that didn’t need a second look.”  McClendon said that there are provisions of the bill which have been ruled either illegal or unconstitutional by the federal courts that could be made legal by changing the way the provision is worded.  McClendon added “I am not sure that we need to make changes based on lower court rulings.”  McClendon said that they make some minor changes and some portions of the legislation could be left as is while waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court to make the ultimate ruling on the matter.

Rep. McClendon said, “If we make any changes we will make it (H.B. 56) easier to enforce.”

On December 1, Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange wrote a confidential letter to Alabama Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard, and Senate Pro Tem Dell Marsh suggesting changes to the Hammon-Beason bill.  After someone leaked that letter to the Associated Press and the Birmingham News, Attorney General Strange publicly acknowledged his concerns with shortcomings of the current bill.  The memo was intended to be private, and those in the statehouse deny involvement of revealing it to the press.

The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that there are 11.2 million illegal immigrants in the United States of America.  By contrast, the entire population of Alabama is less than 4.8 million.  President Obama supports a plan to put the illegal immigrants on a path towards full American citizenship.

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President Obama’s United States’ Attorney General Eric Holder is currently suing the state of Alabama in federal court over House Bill 56 (the Beason-Hammon Act).  The U.S. Justice Department argument is that the Alabama state legislature has overstepped its’ authority under the Constitution.  “To put it in terms we relate to here in Alabama you can only have one quarterback in a football game.  In immigration the quarterback is the federal government,” said Joyce Vance, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama.

In response to critics who argue that immigration is entirely a federal matter and that the Alabama State legislature should not have addressed the issue at all McClendon scoffed, “The President has made clear this is another Federal Law he blatantly chooses to ignore, and in fact, undermine.”

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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