By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY–Last year the Alabama State Legislature passed HB 56, Hammon-Beason Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act, by a wide margin with bipartisan support. Since then, groups as diverse as the Obama Justice Department, the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Catholic Church, the Lutheran Church, etc. sued the state of Alabama to overturn Alabama anti-illegal immigration law in the courts. Some parts of H.B. 56 were found to be vague, confusing, or unenforceable. On advice of Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange, who is defending the law in the federal court system, the authors of HB 56: Rep. Micky Hammon (R) from Decatur and Sen. Scott Beason (R) from Gardendale introduced a new bill HB 658 to address some of these legal issues.
Pro-illegal immigrant groups have lobbied the legislature against HB 56 and its replacement HB 658; because they don’t want any Alabama law limiting illegal immigration. On Thursday, the Alabama House of Representatives passed HB 658. It now goes to the Alabama Senate where opponents vow to lobby against the bill.
Speaker Mike Hubbard (R) from Auburn said. “Some activist groups don’t have a problem with illegal immigration and will only be happy if the law is repealed. That’s not going to happen. What we have is a bill that sharpens tools for law enforcement to more effectively crack down on lawbreakers, offers clarity to state and local agencies in their everyday dealings with the law, and ensures law-abiding residents and businesses aren’t subjected to unnecessary red tape.”
Zayne Smith, the One Family Coordinator for the Alabama Coalition for Immigrant Justice, said, “HB658 is not the answer. It will not remedy the problems caused by HB56. In fact, it will make them worse. The only way to repair the damage done to Alabama is to repeal HB56 in its entirety.”
Rep. Hammon said, “The federal government has failed to enforce its laws against illegal immigration, so Alabama and several other states have taken action to crack down on this problem. The law we passed last year was strong, but as with most laws, it can be made better. We’ve worked for the last several months to see how we could make our law better, and I’m pleased with what we were able to produce. It keeps and strengthens penalties to ensure those living and working in Alabama, are here legally.”
Mary Bauer, the legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center said, “Sadly, Alabama’s legislative leaders have learned very little from their own mistakes and, as a result, taxpayers, business owners, farmers and really all Alabama will continue to suffer. These lawmakers stubbornly refuse to put the state’s best interest ahead of their own desires. They have rushed through a so-called reform bill that will do nothing to alleviate the economic and humanitarian crisis that is gripping our state because of HB 56. Alabama deserves better.”
Rep. Kurt Wallace (R) from Maplesville supported the bill and said on Facebook, “The bottom line is this: its hard to enforce a bill that is tied up in the courts and therefore unenforceable, as opposed to a bill that is not tied up in litigation and is deemed legally enforceable.”
“The Alabama House of Representatives has failed to learn the lessons of the last year, and it now falls to the Senate to return common sense and compassion to its rightful place in state governance,” said Justin Cox, staff attorney for the Immigrants’ Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union.
Rep Jim Patterson (R) from Meridianville said, “It was an honor to speak up for the people of my district who need construction jobs.”
The bill now goes to the Senate where they could act on it as early as next week.