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Luther Strange, Part 3: Immigration law, Vocational Trades, Jobs and Mentors

Bill Britt

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By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

In part 3 we continue the conversation about Alabama’s immigration law.

APR: Something that has been bantered around lately is the unintended consequences of the immigration law. I tell people except for the Ten Commandments that were handed down from God to Moses all laws have unintended consequences.

Anything that is written by man is going to have unintended consequences and that typically has to be addressed after it is passed.

STRANGE: Actually, I have gotten a lot of calls saying, “Thank you for doing that.” Our role was to defend the law which we have done aggressively and have done extremely well. We are actually going to be studying this case and the Arizona case and we are working very hard on that.

luther-in-officeBut then the second phase was that a lot of people were confused about the law—law enforcement and many officials. We spent a lot of time trying to give them guidance as to what it meant but we couldn’t get to that until we prepared our dissents of the law and had argued it in court and found out what was going to be upheld and what wasn’t.

Then we moved to the guidance phase where it was asked “Are you going to change the law?” And we really have not commented on that at all until we were asked by the Majority Leader to give them our thoughts on how it could really be shored up. They just wanted to make sure.

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We wanted the strongest law that could be defended. So that is what my suggestions were. And I think they appreciate that honestly. They have been quoted in the papers saying, “Look we accept changes that are suggested by the AG.” So, I said, “Are you sure you want these?” And they said, “Yeah, we do.” And it was good. We are working closely together and we have said [our office] will help them in any way. But the policy decision is theirs  about what they want to do.

APR: And they are elected to make laws and you are elected to defend and prosecute the laws.

STRANGE: That’s right. And that is what is so surprising to me about the ‘New York Times’ and all. It is almost unprecedented to attack a lawyer for defending a client. I doubt if somebody came to the ‘New York Times’ (the federal government especially) and said, “We want you to send over all of your private taped recordings of somebody that had something to do with the Pentagon. Do you mind sending those over because we are in charge of enforcing all of the laws on espionage? So just send that over.” I’m sure that the ‘New York Times’ would be happy to do that.

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You know, that is the scenario that says, “Attack the lawyer that says ‘I’m not sure you are entitled to that information.’” That just shows you how political this has gotten.

APR: And unfortunately it does become political rather than rational trying to seek justice and protect. Obviously, the people of Alabama are pretty much in favor of this law. How much of it they understand, I don’t know, but they do understand the fundamentals of sovereignty and while I am certainly sympathetic to any immigrant that is trying to make a living and raise a family we still have to have certain laws that govern how things work. If we don’t then we’re living in anarchy or chaos.

STRANGE: That is the problem that I have when I talk to the average person in Alabama. It is very hard to explain why one particular group (and it is not just Hispanics) it’s anybody—Japanese, German—anybody who is not a U.S. citizen. Anybody that is here has to follow the law. If a normal citizen has to follow the law then everybody does. It’s hard to say you are not going to enforce the law against one group. And people just don’t understand that and it is hard to explain. It is kind of erodes the whole rule of law which undermines the whole system that we have.

APR: Well, society breaks down without laws. The thing is and I took exception personally to the media making such a big story out of the stopping of the Mercedes and the Hyundai employee. If you or I travel in other countries and don’t have our passport or are driving around on an invalid license in those countries, we are going to have a lot more trouble than these folks have had. In Japan, they are more than happy to pull you over and they don’t have to have a reason to pull you over. There is no law that says that they can’t pull you over. I have just been walking down the street in Europe and asked for my papers.

STRANGE: It’s probably just because you look so suspicious, Bill. It could be that.

APR: No, no. Yeah, yeah, it’s just I look so anti-European, right?

Another example, Susan and I were coming back from Paris after 9/11 and the hassle we went through in the Charles de Gaulle Airport once we showed them our U.S. passports was just unbelievable. It was no doubt in my mind prejudicial because we are Americans.

STRANGE: Oh, I can imagine. I have been to Israel a couple of times and believe me you don’t want to get off the trail without your identification and passport in Israel. It will not go well.

But, yeah, there is a lot of different dynamics going on here and I have been focused on a couple of things.

One of the things I am doing is meeting with the construction industry people and others who are in need of skilled laborers. I am trying to put them together with the training and technical schools and some of the colleges so we can fill the vacancies in the job market and get Alabamians back to work.

APR: That is a very interesting idea. That is something that really needs more focus doesn’t it?

STRANGE: I have been working for some time trying to develop that because in certain demographics we have, kids who don’t get a high school degree, in that area there will be 50 percent plus unemployment. My concern is that if they are not getting in the job market they are going to get in trouble. If they get in trouble they are going to contribute to the problem with prisons and that is the last place we want them.

So, I have been working with a lot of the CEOs and other people in the construction business saying, “Look, if we can get you young people who can be trained in apprentice skills, will you guys go the extra mile to make that possible?” I think there are some opportunities there.

The other thing that I was going to mention is that I was personally offended by the churches that were making such a to-do about the immigration that it was anti-Christian.

You know, Alabama has probably the most expansive freedom of religion provision in our own constitution. And I made it very clear that nothing about this law would prevent anyone from exercising his or her religion or from being a good Samaritans and doing their charitable work, conducting services. Everything that they have been doing is totally protected.

I was interested to see the other day  the lawyer for the bishops came out and said, “Well, we just see this like the 60s and we are not going to sit on the sidelines and get a letter from the Birmingham jail.” And to me that was very revealing because they are itching to see this as a re-fighting of the 1960s civil rights battles and it is just not.

APR: I couldn’t agree with you more. I certainly see that and unfortunately it strikes me more as posturing rather than trying to come up with a solution. You know, those types of dialogs do not lead to solutions they only lead to confrontation.

Back to your thoughts on training our young people for good paying skilled labor jobs. I have been on that bandwagon for year. We need to identify kids that are not really interested in going on to college but could make a great skilled laborer and give them training so when they walk out of school they walk into a job. Then give businesses incentives to hire. But we need schools that will train them and a partnership between business and education.

STRANGE: I couldn’t agree more and I am working with some of the CEOs who say, “Where can we get labor?” And I say, “Well, you know there is a lot of unemployed people in Alabama that used to be in the job market that aren’t and some of them have been displaced but they need to get back in the market.”

I am trying to get them focused on what they can achieve. I’ve been talking to people in the legislature and I think it is starting to dawn on them and they realize all of this stuff over the last 20 years of making sure that every kid goes to college…Well, not every kid wants to go to college or that may not be the best career path for every child.

Traditionally we have allowed kids to have a lot of options. If they wanted to do something in mechanics or masonry or whatever, we found a way to get them there and they could make great livings.

APR: And that is fairly a traditional idea in America, apprentice programs. Getting kids at a young age and giving them a craft that they can do. I know that my parents certainly expected and probably would have killed me if I hadn’t gone to college but they also wanted me to have certain skills that I could do, just in case.

STRANGE: Absolutely, my grandmother taught shop in a Birmingham high school. Back then they would identify skills in kids saying, “I know this great kid who is good with his hands. He likes motors and machines.” Then they would get him into the right curriculum to teach him how to do that and he would be very successful.

I was in Guntersville at lunch today. There is an industry there that is looking for 30 qualified welders. They can’t get them. They can’t find them anywhere. These welding jobs have starting pays at $20 a hour and it goes up from there. I mean, there are jobs out there like that.

If we can get our kids in these jobs (just like when we transitioned a lot of our workers from textile industry into automotive) it’s one big step up and it’s a much better job for higher pay. We can do the same sort of thing on some of these other jobs.

We have to get these kids, identify them, and get them out there.

APR: You are obviously a very passionate man and you are intelligent. Those are two great qualities to have in your job or any public service job. Would you characterize for me maybe some of the ideas or some principles that have guided you through this series of really tough times because you have been faced with the hurricane, immigration, overcrowding of the prisons, the tornados and then the BP oil spill. I mean, these are all epic catastrophes, all in your first year. This is not exactly the plagues of Egypt but it is kind of bad.

STRANGE: That’s a good definition of that, I’m going to have to remember that. You know, I don’t know, it’s a combination of a lot of things, I just got awarded the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award and I was shocked to get but it reminded me of lessons I learned really early on—integrity, hard work and a strong faith. Things that have really just stuck with me.

I’ve had great role models and mentors who set great examples that were willing to do the right thing in a tough circumstance. So, I guess that all adds up and I am surrounded by good people.

I have seen a lot of politicians and oftentimes politicians get in trouble if they surround themselves with people that tell them what they want to hear or are not of the same sort of philosophy and character that they are. So it is a combination of those things.

Plus, I love what I do. It’s just fun.

APR: If you love your job you don’t ever have to work a day, right?

STRANGE: That’s the way I feel. I know y’all feel the same I know you just love what you do.

APR: Absolutely, it’s thrilling. I absolutely appreciate this. I think we have got some really good things here. Is there anything that you want to add?

STRANGE: Well, I can’t think of anything but I sure do appreciate you letting me ramble on. I love talking about all of this stuff.

We really enjoyed our conversation with the Attorney General and we wish him Godspeed.

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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Governor announces auto supplier IAC plans Alabama expansion

IAC is committing $34.3 million in new capital investment to expand its new manufacturing facility located in Tuscaloosa County.

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Gov. Kay Ivey announced Monday that International Automotive Components Group North America Inc. plans to invest over $55.9 million in expansion projects that will create 182 jobs at two Alabama facilities.

“International Automotive Components is a leading global auto supplier, and I am pleased that this world-class company is growing significantly in Alabama and creating good jobs in Cottondale and Anniston,” Ivey said. “IAC’s growth plans show that Alabama’s dynamic auto industry continues to expand despite today’s challenging environment.”

Nick Skwiat is the executive vice president and president of IAC North America.

“Alabama was the logical choice due to its skilled workforce and proximity to the customer,” Skwiat said. “We are excited to see the continued growth of the automotive industry in Alabama and we plan to grow right along with it. We thank the Governor and Secretary Canfield for their leadership in this sector.”

IAC is committing $34.3 million in new capital investment to expand its new manufacturing facility located in Tuscaloosa County. This facility will produce door panels and overhead systems for original equipment manufacturers. That project will create 119 jobs at the production site in Cottondale.

IAC also plans to invest $21.6 million at its manufacturing facility located in the former Fort McClellan in Anniston. That East Alabama project will create another 63 jobs.

This project builds on a milestone 2014 expansion that doubled the size of the Calhoun County facility. There IAC manufactures automotive interior components and systems. Key components produced at the Anniston plant include door panels, trim systems and instrument panels for original equipment manufacturers.

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IAC Group is a leading global supplier of innovative and sustainable instrument panels, consoles, door panels, overhead systems, bumper fascias and exterior ornamentation for original equipment manufacturers.

IAC is headquartered in Luxembourg and has more than 18,000 employees at 67 locations in 17 countries. The company operates manufacturing facilities in eight U.S. states.

“With operations around the globe, IAC is the kind of high-performance company that we want in Alabama’s auto supply chain to help fuel sustainable growth,” said Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield. “We look forward to working with IAC and facilitating its future growth in this strategic industrial sector.”

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Danielle Winningham is the executive director of the Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development Authority.

“International Automotive Components is a valued part of Tuscaloosa County’s automotive sector,” Winningham said. “We are grateful for IAC’s investment in our community and the career opportunities available to our area workforce as a result of their investment.”

“The City of Anniston is excited that IAC has made the decision to expand here. I have enjoyed working with the leadership at IAC, the Calhoun County EDC, and the state of Alabama to get this project finalized,” said Anniston Mayor Jack Draper. “This is even further evidence that Anniston is indeed open for business.”

Only Michigan has more automobile manufacturing jobs than the state of Alabama. Honda, Mercedes, Hyundai, Polaris, Toyota and soon Mazda all have major automobile assembly plants in the state of Alabama.

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National

AUM poll suggests Alabamians divided on prison reform proposals

90 percent of Alabamians favor some type of reform to the state’s prison systems, but there is little agreement on what efforts should be pursued.

Brandon Moseley

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Last week, a poll by Auburn University at Montgomery’s Department of Political Science and Public Administration found that approximately 90 percent of Alabamians favor some type of reform to the state’s prison systems, but there is little agreement on which reform efforts should be pursued.

  • 36.6 percent: “Reduce or eliminate criminal sentences for non-violent crimes.”
  • 30.3 percent: “Parole inmates convicted of non-violent crimes.”
  • 25.9 percent: “Increase funding to improve existing prison facilities.”
  • 21.4 percent: “Construct new prisons to be operated by the state.”
  • 14.5 percent: “Contract with private firms to construct new prisons the state would then lease to operate.”
  • 27.5 percent: “Increase funding for prison staff such as correctional officers, healthcare providers, educators, etc.”
  • 15.2 percent: “Increase funding for probation officers.”
  • 9.9 percent: “I support none of these options.”

The totals do not add up to 100 because it was a “select all that apply” poll.

Gov. Kay Ivey’s plan of signing a decades-long lease with private prison contractors was the least popular idea. Repairing the existing prisons 25.9 percent support while constructing new prisons had just 21.4 percent support.

The most popular prison reform measures, according to AUM poll director David Hughes, address prison overcrowding through criminal sentencing reforms.

“Approximately 37 percent of respondents support policies to reduce or eliminate sentences for non-violent offenders, and another 30 percent support paroling inmates convicted of non-violent crimes,” Hughes said.

The governor has included justice reform proposals in her all-encompassing plan. Those proposals were going to be considered by the Legislature in the 2020 legislative session but because of the coronavirus, the 2020 legislative session was cut short and the Legislature went home without addressing that or many other issues.

Much less popular is Ivey’s plan to build three new mega-prisons in Escambia, Elmore and Bibb counties.

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“Only 21 percent of respondents supported a proposal to build new prisons the state would then directly operate,” Hughes said. “The least popular proposal we polled involved the state contracting with private firms to construct new prisons the state would then lease. Only 14 percent of respondents approved of this reform measure.”

The state has grossly underfunded its prison system for decades and the Alabama Department of Corrections is still dangerously overcrowded and understaffed, despite recent efforts by the Legislature to deal with its chronic underfunding of the system.

A U.S. Justice Department investigation begun by the Obama administration and concluded by the Trump administration declared that the state has the most dangerous prison system in the country. The prisons are plagued by rampant drug use, extreme violence, and the prisons have not done a good job at preparing prisoners to return to society.

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The poor track record of rehabilitating prisoners means that inmates are released without job skills, education and still battling mental health issues and drug dependency. Too many inevitably reoffend and get sent back to prison exacerbating the overcrowding situation.

The U.S. Department of Justice warned the state in July that it was violating prisoners’ constitutional rights and that the attorney general may file or join lawsuits to intervene. A federal court has already found that the prisons were understaffed by a thousand guards and that inmates were not receiving necessary mental health care.

The AUM Poll was conducted between Sept. 30 and Oct. 3. It solicited online participation from 1,072 registered voters in Alabama. Respondents were weighted according demographic factors such as age, gender, race, education and income to produce a more representative sample of Alabama’s voting age population.

The survey has a 4-point margin of error.

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News

Federal assistance following Sally tops $100 million, one month remains to apply

The deadline to register for assistance from FEMA and the SBA is Nov. 19, 2020.

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Gov. Kay Ivey took a tour of the damage from Hurricane Sally on the gulf coast Friday September 18, 2020. (Governor's Office/Hal Yeager)

About a month after the federal disaster declaration for Hurricane Sally, over $100 million in federal disaster assistance has been approved for survivors.

The funds include grants from FEMA, the National Flood Insurance Program and low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration to help with uninsured or underinsured losses.

“Alabamians, particularly in our coastal communities are still working to get back on their feet following the impacts from Hurricane Sally. I remain grateful to the Trump Administration and the team at FEMA for helping provide this immediate relief for Alabamians,” Gov. Kay Ivey said. “I encourage folks in the eligible counties to take advantage of any of this assistance as we work to recover from Hurricane Sally.”

FEMA disaster assistance can help you start on your road to recovery. Alabama homeowners, renters and businesses who had property damage or loss related to Hurricane Sally have one month left to register and apply for federal disaster assistance.

The deadline to register for assistance from FEMA and the SBA is Nov. 19, 2020.

“FEMA is here with our state and federal partners to help Alabama communities and survivors recover from the devastating storm and flooding,” said Allan Jarvis, federal coordinating officer for the Hurricane Sally disaster in Alabama. “Register for assistance if you have uninsured disaster losses.”

Survivors should register even if they have insurance. FEMA cannot duplicate insurance payments, but eligible homeowners and renters may be able to receive FEMA grants or SBA low interest loans for losses not covered by insurance to help pay for basic home repairs, temporary rental assistance and other needs such as replacing personal property.

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Survivors in Baldwin, Escambia and Mobile counties have until Thursday, Nov. 19, to apply for federal disaster help.

Register for assistance in one of three ways:

  • Online by logging onto DisasterAssistance.gov
  • The FEMA app: Visit fema.gov/mobile-app or your phone’s app store
  • Call 800-621-3362 or TTY 800-462-7585. Language translators also are available. Toll-free numbers are open daily from 6 a.m. to midnight CST, seven days a week. Multilingual operators are available.

Survivors who have questions about SBA low-interest disaster loans may contact the Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center by calling 800-659-2955 (TTY 800-877-8339), email at [email protected] or visit SBA’s website at DisasterLoanAssistance.sba.gov.

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Courts

Aderholt fully supports Barrett’s confirmation process

Confirmation hearings began last week and a vote on her confirmation is expected in the next week just days before the general election.

Brandon Moseley

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Congressman Robert Aderholt

Congressman Robert Aderholt, R-Alabama, updated his constituents on the confirmation process for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. Aderholt said, “I do support her fully and I know she will defend life, protect the Constitution, and uphold our freedoms.”

Confirmation hearings began last week and a vote on her confirmation is expected in the next week just days before the general election.

“Senate Democrats are not seriously questioning Judge Barrett on her credentials, instead they have decided to attack her character and her beliefs,” Aderholt said. “I am disappointed to see this unfold on the national stage, but I think Judge Barrett stood strong and did well during this first week of hearings.”

“While I do not have a vote in her confirmation process, I do support her fully and I know she will defend life, protect the Constitution, and uphold our freedoms when she is officially sworn in as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court,” Aderholt said.

Barrett is a Notre Dame graduate, has served on the U.S. Seventh Court of Appeals and is a former clerk for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

“I clerked for Justice Scalia more than 20 years ago, but the lessons I learned still resonate,” Barrett said. “His judicial philosophy is mine, too: A judge must apply the law as written. Judges are not policymakers, and they must be resolute in setting aside any policy views they might hold.”

Barrett vowed to keep an open mind on any matter that comes before the court, though Democrats fear she is prepared to overturn Supreme Court precedent on abortion rights and the Affordable Care Act.

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That the Republican controlled committee will recommend that Barrett be confirmed appears certain. A vote to confirm Barrett to the nation’s highest court by the full Senate could occur just days ahead of the Nov. 3 election.

President Donald Trump has been the president of the United States for less than four years but if Barrett is confirmed, then he will have selected one third of the U.S. Supreme Court. Barrett fills a place created by the death of the late Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in September.

Aderholt is in his 12th term representing Alabama’s 4th Congressional District. He faces Democratic nominee Rick Neighbors in the Nov. 3 general election.

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