Last Thursday, the Alabama House of Representatives voted 64-34 to make major revisions to the State's immigration enforcement law, HB 56. (Montgomery Advertiser, Apr. 19, 2012) The changes were adopted through the passage of HB 658, introduced by Rep. Micky Hammon, also the House author of HB 56. House passage of HB 658 comes only two weeks after the bill's introduction, during which time the bill was heard and amended by the Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee. (See Alabama House Bill Status for HB 658)
HB 658 weakens HB 56 in several ways. It limits the circumstances under which law enforcement officers check immigration status, weakens the penalties for knowingly hiring illegal aliens, eliminates the prohibition on renting apartments to an individual a landlord knows is an illegal alien, and eliminates the requirement that schools collect immigration data on their students for inclusion in state reports. (See HB 658 as engrossed; FAIR Legislative Update, Apr. 9, 2012) With regard to the last provision, however, HB 658 still requires that the state prepare a report on the cost of educating the children of illegal aliens and expressly allows the state to contract with scholars, economists, or public research institutions to complete it.
Debate on the Alabama House floor was long and contentious. Opponents said the bill did not go far enough, calling for an outright repeal. (See, e.g. Letter to House Speaker Hubbard and Senate President Pro Tem Marsh) Early on, the House Legislative Black Caucus led a filibuster, saying the law had led to discrimination and other unintended consequences. (Montgomery Advertiser, Apr. 19, 2012) Rep. Hammon, however, promoted the changes as merely clarifying HB 56, particularly for law enforcement. "We've had a year to examine our law and talk to people who work with the law every day," said Hammon. "We have put together some clarifications and simplifications and few language changes in the law." (Montgomery Advertiser, Apr. 19, 2012)
The Alabama Senate will soon be considering companion legislation to HB 658. The companion bill, SB 541, was introduced by Senator Scott Beason on April 19, the same day the House passed HB 658. However, in contrast to HB 658, SB 541 is much smaller in scope regarding the revisions it makes to HB 56.