Alabama governor Robert Bentley has called for further discussion on a controversial anti-immigration bill widely regarded to be the country’s toughest. Yesterday, lawmakers in the state House of Representatives passed a revised version of the bill 68-37 just hours after it had passed the Senate. Needless to say, both the chambers are controlled by Republicans.
Viewed by critics to be draconian in some of the measures it makes available to police, instead of signing it into law or vetoing it, Governor Bentley has called for another round of discussions to further clarify the more controversial parts of the law. For example, one portion would call on schools to collect and report back information on the immigration status of their students. Another requires the courts to publish records of undocumented workers guilty or otherwise.
Whatever happened to innocent-until-proven-guilty?
On top of the courts releasing this information, the police are also required to check the immigration status of anyone they detain and suspect of being in the state illegally. It would also become illegal for undocumented workers to apply for or renew a driver’s license, ID card, or license plates.
Amazingly, religious leaders were complaining about aspects of the proposed bill — although not for very good reasons. Some had complained that their missionary work would be deemed a criminal offence if the recipients of their ‘aid’ were illegal workers. At one stage a version of the bill included exceptions for this, however the final bill features no such measure.
Illegal immigration is always a contentious issue, although it seems to me that measures like this do far more harm than good. They encourage racial profiling by law enforcement, whether subconsciously or otherwise. They force the problem underground making it far more dangerous, forcing people to take bigger risks by falling into the hands of organized trafficking gangs. It’s also easy to lose sight of what it is that means people migrate to the U.S. to begin with. It’s more than the jobs and the money -– it’s the values of the entire society and country. Bills like this attack the very core of those values.