By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Three years ago, the Alabama Republican supermajority, from both Houses of the Alabama legislature, responding to an anti-illegal immigration wave across the State spearheaded by dozens of Tea Party groups who were demanding action on the illegal aliens issue, passed the nation’s toughest state anti-illegal immigration law. The highly controversial legislation’s constitutionality was immediately questioned.
The U.S. Constitution makes immigration enforcement and setting the rules for immigration into this country an explicit federal power. Advocates of HB 56, which was sponsored by Senator Scott Beason (R from Gardendale) and Rep. Micky Hammon (R from Decatur), brushed aside any concerns that the state of Alabama was exceeding its constitutional authority making the argument that illegal aliens were already in the country illegally thus were lawbreakers and the state could make laws to limit their otherwise legal activities in the State of Alabama.
HB 56 made it illegal for anyone to rent to an illegal alien, make a contract with an illegal alien unenforceable, made hiring an illegal alien illegal, outlawed giving an illegal alien a ride, required schools to ask questions about immigration status and report back to the state, authorized the police to fine illegal aliens, potentially criminalized some charitable activity with illegal aliens, and even created a website where Alabama residents could go to view the pictures and profiles of known illegal aliens in Alabama.
Many questioned the constitutionality of any of this at the time, but GOP legislators (many of them attorneys) claimed that the Constitution applied to U.S. citizens and that illegal aliens by virtue of their lack of legal status in this country could be criminalized by the state of Alabama. President Obama’s Department of Justice disagreed and openly encouraged numerous immigrant advocates to sue the state of Alabama and other states who passed similar legislation. Most of HB 56 has been blocked in federal courts on piece at a time.
On Friday, October 10 another piece of that law was blocked in legal wrangling between the state and pro-immigrant groups. The state has agreed that the so-called “Scarlet Letter” provision that created the web page maintained by the state for interested members of the public to view their undocumented neighbors is a violation of federal law and has agreed to block that provision of HB 56.
Alabama will not publish the list of purportedly “unlawfully present” immigrants, according to an agreement announced today by civil rights groups that had sued to block publication on the grounds that it would violate individuals’ due process rights and exceed the state’s Constitutional authority.
This agreement is pending final approval by the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama Northern Division. Pro-immigrant groups in a written statement on Friday said that HB 56, “Has been largely eviscerated by legal challenges from the groups, which include the National Immigration Law Center (NILC), the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the American Civil Liberties Union, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama Foundation.”
Southern Poverty Law Center attorney Sam Brooke said in a statement, “This is yet another victory for Alabama’s immigrant community. Blocking this final vestige of HB 56 is another nail in the coffin for Alabama’s misguided attempt to bully and intimidate immigrants. But even with this victory, meaningful immigration reform is still critically needed. We call on Congress to fix our nation’s broken immigration system, rather than blocking reform under the empty promise that it will be addressed ‘next year.’”
Attorneys for the immigrants said that the law provided no notice to people that their name and information would be posted online. The legislation also failed to provide any means for people to remove their names or change their information if the listing was inaccurate or if their immigration status changed – even if they became citizens.
They argued that this approach to immigration status is particularly problematic because people’s immigration status changes as they go through the federal immigration system and immigration court process. The law did not accommodate this fluid nature in any way.
A staff attorney of the National Immigration Law Center, Nora Preciado said, “Alabama has finally recognized that shaming immigrants isn’t just morally repugnant, it’s constitutionally risky. We’re pleased the state decided to finally close this ugly chapter in its legal history.”
The agreement requires that the state of Alabama institute a policy that bars the publication of any list naming people allegedly “unlawfully present” in Alabama. The agreement also requires that any immigration information collected by the state through the Administrative Office of the Courts be kept strictly confidential.
The groups filed the February 2013 lawsuit on behalf of four Hispanic immigrants who were arrested for fishing without a license. This is just a misdemeanor under Alabama law. However because of their immigration status HB 56 kicked in and their names, along with the names of other individuals the State deemed “unlawfully present,” would have been included on a list to be published on a public website. They sued to block the provision which was commonly referred to as the “Scarlet Letter” law.
The Director of the ACLU’s Immigrants Rights Project, Cecilia Wang said, “This Scarlet Letter database made a mockery of the presumption of innocence and our basic civil liberties. It was a no-brainer that this mean-spirited and unconstitutional law could not stand.”
Other key provisions of HB 56 were blocked in a 2013 agreement with the coalition after state immigration laws received several unfavorable rulings from federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court. Defending HB 56 and its followup law has cost the state hundreds of thousands of dollars just to pay the winning plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees. The overall defense, including state resources directed to this defense, potentially cost the taxpayers millions of dollars.
Coalition attorneys who worked on the case include Kristi L. Graunke and Samuel Brooke for the SPLC; Linton Joaquin, Karen C. Tumlin and Nora A. Preciado for the NILC; Justin B. Cox, Cecillia D. Wang, and Omar C. Jadwat for the American Civil Liberties Union; and Randall Marshall, legal director, and Freddy Rubio, cooperating attorney, for the American Civil Liberties Union of Alabama Foundation.
Today is Thanksgiving
Today is a national and state holiday. Schools, banks, government offices and many private businesses are closed.
Four hundred years ago, on Nov. 11, 1620, after 66 days at sea, a group of English settlers landed near what is today Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Onboard the Mayflower were 102 men, women, and children, including one baby born during the Atlantic crossing, who made up the Pilgrims.
The Mayflower, captained by Christopher Jones, had been bound for the mouth of the Hudson River. The ship took a northerly course to avoid pirates, but the decision to avoid the then widely traveled sea lanes to the New World took the ship into bad weather, which had blown the Mayflower miles off course and left the ship damaged. Off Cape Cod, the adult males in the group made the fateful decision to build an entire colony where none had existed prior. They wrote and signed the Mayflower Compact.
“In the name of God, Amen. We whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God of Great Britain, France, and Ireland King, Defender of the Faith, etc. Having undertaken for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith and Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the First Colony in the Northern Parts of Virginia, do by these presents solemnly and mutually in the presence of God and one of another, Covenant and Combine ourselves together in a Civil Body Politic, for our better ordering and preservation and furtherance of the ends aforesaid; and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute and frame such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony, unto which we promise all due submission and obedience. In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cape Cod, the 11th of November, in the year of the reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France and Ireland the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth. Anno Domini 1620.”
After a few weeks off Cape Cod, they sailed up the coast until they reached Plymouth. There they found a Wampanoag Indian village that had been abandoned due to some sort of plague. During the Winter of 1620-1621 they lived aboard the Mayflower and would row to shore each day to build houses. Finally, they had built enough houses to actually move to the colony, but the cold, damp conditions aboard the ship had been costly.
Some 28 men, 13 women (one of them in child birth), and 8 children died in that winter. Governor John Carver would die in April. His widow, Kathrine White Carver, would follow a few weeks later. There is some recent archaeological evidence suggesting that some of the dead were butchered and eaten by the survivors.
The Mayflower and her crew left for England on April 5, 1621, never to return.
About 40 of the Pilgrims were religious Separatists, members of a Puritan sect that had split from the Church of England, in defiance of English law. In 1609, they immigrated to Holland to practice their religion but ran into problems there too. Others in the group had remained part of the Church of England but were sympathetic to their Separatist friends. They did not call themselves Pilgrims, that term was adopted at the bicentennial for the Mayflower voyage. The members of core Separatist sect referred to themselves as “Saints” and people not in their sect as “Strangers.”
In March 1621, an English speaking Native American, named Samoset, visited the Plymouth colony and asked for beer. He spent the night talking with the settlers and later introduced them to Squanto, who spoke even better English. Squanto introduced them to the chief of the Wampanoag, Massasoit.
Squanto moved in with the Pilgrims, serving as their advisor and translator. The friendly Wampanoag tribe taught the Pilgrims how to hunt and grow crops. The two groups began trading furs with each other.
William Bradford, a Separatist who helped draft the Mayflower Compact, became the longtime Plymouth Governor. He was also the writer of the first history of the Plymouth Colony and the Mayflower. Bradford’s more notable descendants include author, dictionary writer and scholar Noah Webster; TV chef Julia Child; and Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist.
In the fall of 1621, 399 years ago, the Pilgrims invited their Wampanoag Indian friends to a feast celebrating their first harvest and a year in the New World with a three-day festival. This has become known as the first Thanksgiving.
Today is a national and state holiday. Schools, banks, government offices and many private businesses are closed.
Alabama hospitals nearing COVID-19 summer surge levels
Wednesday was the 18th straight day with more than 1,000 people in hospitals in Alabama with COVID-19.
Alabama hospitals reported caring for 1,483 people infected with COVID-19 on Wednesday, the highest number of patients since Aug. 11, when the state was enduring its summer surge. Wednesday was also the 18th straight day with more than 1,000 people in hospitals in Alabama with COVID-19.
The seven-day average of hospitalizations was 1,370 on Wednesday, the 36th straight day of that average rising. The Alabama Department of Public Health reported 2,453 new cases Wednesday. The 14-day average of new cases was — for the eighth day in a row — at a record high of 2,192.
Across the country, more than 80,000 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 on Tuesday, a record high and the 15th straight day of record hospitalizations nationwide, according to the COVID Tracking Project, a coronavirus tracking website.
The CDC this week recommended people not travel for Thanksgiving to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.
“The only way for us to successfully get through this pandemic is if we work together,” said Dr. Kierstin Kennedy, UAB’s chief of hospital medicine, in a message Tuesday. “There’s no one subset of the community that’s going to be able to carry the weight of this pandemic and so we all have to take part in wearing our masks, keeping our distance, making sure that we’re washing our hands.”
Kennedy said the best way she can describe the current situation is “Russian Roulette.”
“Not only in the form of, maybe you get it and you don’t get sick or maybe you get it and you end up in the ICU,” Kennedy said, “but if you do end up sick, are you going to get to the hospital at a time when we’ve got capacity, and we’ve got enough people to take care of you? And that is a scary thought.”
The Alabama Department of Public Health on Wednesday reported an increase of 60 confirmed and probable COVID-19 deaths. Deaths take time to confirm and the date a death is reported does not necessarily reflect the date on which the individual died. At least 23 of those deaths occurred in November, and 30 occurred in other months. Seven were undated. Data for the last two to three weeks are incomplete.
As of Wednesday, at least 3,532 Alabamians have died of COVID-19, according to the Department of Public Health. During November, at least 195 people have died in Alabama from COVID-19. But ADPH is sure to add more to the month’s tally in the weeks to come as data becomes more complete.
ADPH on Wednesday announced a change that nearly doubled the department’s estimate of people who have recovered from COVID-19, bringing that figure up to 161,946. That change also alters APR’s estimates of how many cases are considered active.
ADPH’s Infectious Disease and Outbreak team “updated some parameters” in the department’s Alabama NEDSS Base Surveillance System, which resulted in the increase, the department said.
Judge reduces former Alabama Speaker Mike Hubbard’s prison sentence
The trial court judge ordered his 48-month sentence reduced to 28 months.
Lee County Circuit Court Judge Jacob Walker on Wednesday reduced former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard’s prison sentence from four years to just more than two.
Walker in his order filed Wednesday noted that Hubbard was sentenced to fours years on Aug. 9, 2016, after being convicted of 12 felony ethics charges for misusing his office for personal gain, but that on Aug. 27, 2018, the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals reversed convictions on one counts. The Alabama Supreme Court later struck down another five counts.
Hubbard’s attorneys on Sept. 18 filed a motion to revise his sentence, to which the state objected, according to court records, arguing that “Hubbard’s refusal to admit any guilt or express any remorse makes him wholly unfit to receive any leniency.”
Walker in his order cited state code and wrote that the power of the courts to grant probation “is a matter of grace and lies entirely within the sound discretion of the trial court.”
“Furthermore, the Court must consider the nature of the Defendant’s crimes. Acts of public corruption harm not just those directly involved, but harm society as a whole,” Walker wrote.
Walker ruled that because six of Hubbard’s original felony counts were later reversed, his sentence should be changed to reflect that, and ordered his 48-month sentence reduced to 28 months.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on Wednesday said Walker’s decision to reduce Hubbard’s sentence was the wrong message to send.
“Mr. Hubbard was convicted of the intentional violation of Alabama’s ethics laws, the same laws he championed in the legislature only later to brazenly disregard for his personal enrichment,” Marshall said in a statement. “Even as he sits in state prison as a six-time felon, Mike Hubbard continues to deny any guilt or offer any remorse for his actions in violation of the law. Reducing his original four-year sentence sends precisely the wrong message to would-be violators of Alabama’s ethics laws.”
Nick Saban tests positive for COVID-19, has “mild symptoms”
It’s unlikely Saban will be able to coach in person during Saturday’s Iron Bowl against Auburn.
University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban has tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the Iron Bowl and has mild symptoms, according to a statement from the university on Wednesday.
“This morning we received notification that Coach Saban tested positive for COVID-19,” said Dr. Jimmy Robinson and Jeff Allan, associate athletic director, in the statement. “He has very mild symptoms, so this test will not be categorized as a false positive. He will follow all appropriate guidelines and isolate at home.”
Saban had previously tested positive before Alabama’s game against Georgia but was asymptomatic and subsequently tested negative three times, a sign that the positive test could have been a false positive. He returned to coach that game.
It’s unlikely Saban will be able to coach in person during Saturday’s Iron Bowl against Auburn, given the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines for quarantining after testing positive and with symptoms. Neither Saban nor the university had spoken about that possibility as of Wednesday morning.