Alabama lawmakers’ reaction to Monday’s Supreme Court decision striking down aspects of Arizona’s immigration law and its potential impact on Alabama’s similar law was divided along party lines.
Republicans called it a “win” while Democrats said it was proof the state had wasted money and manpower.
“(Monday’s) ruling on the reasonable suspicion section of Arizona’s law bodes well for Alabama’s common sense illegal immigration statute,” Rep. Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, said in a written statement. “Alabama will fully enforce those portions of our law that the courts uphold, and we will continue searching for ways to stop the flood of illegal immigration that plagues us.”
Hammon’s office cited a 2010 study by the Pew Hispanic Center that estimated the number of illegal immigrants in Alabama increased from about 100,000 in 2008 to 130,000 in 2009. The report said illegal immigrants account for about 2.8 percent of the state’s population and 5.1 percent of the state’s workforce.
Hammon sponsored Alabama’s immigration law on 2011, as well as several modifications to the law this year.
Senate Minority Leader Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, said the state has wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars writing, reworking and defending the law. He said it should have waited for this ruling before acting.
“All we had to do was wait to see what the Supreme Court was going to say, but the Republican super majority and right-wing zealots wanted to waste taxpayers’ money making a silly statement.”
Joy Patterson, a spokeswoman for the Alabama Attorney General’s office, said the office doesn’t know how much money or how many hours it has spent defending the law, but added it hasn’t hired any additional staff to do so.
An attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery said he expects his organization to spend about $2 million fighting the law.
“(Monday’s) decision is a real blow to these laws,” Sam Brooke said. “By and large, it is saying these laws are not OK.”
Brooke said the law center will continue to challenge the portion of the law that allows law enforcement to detain people while it checks their status.
“The Supreme Court said very clearly that police don’t have authority to detain someone just to ask about their status,” he said. “And we will be able to go into court and show that is exactly what is happening.”
Rep. Marcel Black, D-Tuscumbia, said he doesn’t think there has been much enforcement of Alabama’s current law. He hopes it stays that way.