Alabama passes immigration reform law, ACLU threatens to sue
Alabama has passed what some immigrant rights groups are calling the strictest immigration reform law approved by a state since Arizona's SB 1070, which was passed last year. The New York-based American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the ACLU of Alabama have threatened to sue to stop the law, taking particular issue with the fact that, unlike similar laws, Alabama's pressures schools to ensure the legal immigration status of their students.
Like SB 1070, Alabama's new law allows state and local law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of people they suspect are in the country illegally. It also requires voters to show proof of "citizenship and residency" before casting their ballots; provides criminal penalties for anyone who harbors an illegal alien; and prohibits businesses from hiring undocumented workers. "We have a real problem with illegal immigration in this country," Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley said in a statement. "I campaigned for the toughest immigration laws, and I'm proud of the legislature for working tirelessly to create the strongest immigration bill in the country."
The law also requires public schools to determine the citizenship and immigration status of students enrolling, and orders school districts to submit reports on their compliance with the law to the State Board of Education. That feature is not found in other state laws, such as Arizona's or Georgia's, the latter of which was passed last month.
The ACLU called the law "draconian," saying it sanctions "discriminatory and unconstitutional practices by police officers, landlords and employers by inviting racial profiling of Latinos and others." "This law undermines core American values of fairness and equality, subjecting both citizens and non-citizens alike to unlawful racial profiling, and does nothing to ensure the safety and economic security of Alabama," ACLU of Alabama Executive Director Olivia Turner said in a statement.
Cecillia Wang, director of the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project, said the group would take action to prevent the law from going into effect. "This law is an outrageous throw-back to the pre-Civil Rights era, going beyond the discriminatory and unconstitutional police practices that we've seen in other states," Wang said in a statement. "It blocks the schoolhouse doors to children, will result in people being turned away when they try to rent a home, and places burdens on people of color at the voting booth."