By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Friday, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley (R) signed HB658 into law, revising Alabama’s landmark anti-illegal immigration law, the Beason Hammon Alabama Citizen and Taxpayer Protection Act, HB56, that was passed into law last year. On Monday, pro-immigrant groups denounced the Governor’s decision.
The Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum Ali Noorani said in a written statement, “Alabama policymakers have officially turned back the clock on civil rights in the Heart of Dixie. The revised immigration law has achieved a new low in discriminatory and overreaching policy, targeting schoolchildren in order to frighten their parents and creating a big-government, taxpayer-funded ‘immigrant blacklist.’”
On Friday, the Coordinator of the Alabama Coalition on Immigrant Justice, Zayne Smith said, “In addition to his failure to show integrity and steadfastness in the face of extreme and hateful legislation, Governor Bentley also missed an opportunity to show leadership by asking the legislature to pause for a moment and let cooler heads prevail before committing the same mistake as they did last year when they shoved HB 56 into law.”
Director Noorani said, “It is disappointing that Governor Bentley gave in to the legislature and signed the mean-spirited substitute law, despite his own concerns about its severity and potential impact. Indeed, Governor Bentley missed an opportunity to show responsible leadership and heed the pleas of farmers, religious and civil rights leaders calling for a repeal of the immigration law. These diverse voices oppose the latest immigration bill in Alabama because it damages the overall economy of the state and because it is a direct attack on our American values of fairness and equal treatment.
Director Noorani continued, “Just last week, reports indicated that Alabama farmers were cutting back on food production. They feared crops would rot in the fields for a second straight year, a product of the farm labor shortage Alabama’s heavy-handed immigration measures have caused. Alabama’s own newspapers have reproached the immigration laws because they ‘give economic recruiters in other states all the ammunition they need to keep industries and businesses from locating in Alabama’ and because they ‘present Alabama as a closed, intolerant, unwelcoming state.’”
“The new iteration of the immigration law is just meaner and more reckless. It is a bad sequel aiming to bring intimidation and fear to Alabama’s classrooms and courtrooms. Until Alabama policymakers right this wrong by repealing the law or the courts overturn it, all Alabamians will continue to suffer the economic and moral consequences,” Mr. Noorani concluded.
Zayne Smith said, “ACIJ is seriously disappointed in the Governor’s lack of courage, but we are not ourselves discouraged. We are not defeated. We remain united and committed to fighting for justice for all and full repeal of HB 56.”
Gov. Bentley had added reconsideration of the immigration bill to the special session order; but after consulting with lawmakers from both Houses, the Governor went ahead and signed HB658 into law.