Judge says Alabama cannot steal immigrants’ homes

This is good news: “US judge stops Ala. from enforcing part of law.”

A federal judge in Montgomery has stopped state officials from using Alabama’s [harsh]* new immigration law to prevent immigrants from renewing required permits on manufactured homes.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson issued a temporary restraining order Wednesday evening that allows Alabama residents to renew registration of manufactured homes without requiring that they prove that they are in the country legally. The deadline for renewing the registration without being fined is Nov. 30.

Attorneys for a coalition of civil rights groups said earlier that by refusing to renew the permits, state officials could force people to abandon their homes.

Many of Alabama’s Sooners own manufactured homes. They bought them and paid for them. They own them. But under Alabama’s clumsily harsh new immigration law, Sooners are not allowed to renew the annual registration the state requires for such homes — allowing the state to, well, steal their homes.

Let me say that again: Alabama has passed a law allowing it to steal people’s homes. Thankfully, Judge Thompson has suspended that part of the new law — at least for now.

Iulia Filip of Courthouse News reported on the civil rights groups’ lawsuit earlier this week:

A federal class action claims Alabama’s harsh new immigration law unconstitutionally denies state-required registration to mobile-home owners who cannot prove they are legally in the United States. The plaintiffs say Congressman Mo Brooks personified his state’s animus against undocumented immigrants, saying, “As your congressman, on the House floor, I will do anything short of shooting them.”

The class claims the law denies essential housing services to Alabamans and violates federal housing and immigration policies.

Named plaintiffs, the Central Alabama Fair Housing Center, the Fair Housing Center of Northern Alabama, the Center for Fair Housing and two John Does, sued Alabama Revenue Commissioner Julie Magee and Elmore County Revenue Commissioner William Harper, in Federal Court.

The Does sued on behalf of all Alabama residents who own mobile homes and lack proof of U.S. citizenship or legal immigration status, with a subclass of Latino homeowners.

Under Alabama law, people who own or maintain a manufactured home must pay an annual registration fee and display a current identification decal on the home. Stickers must be renewed every year by Nov. 30. Violators face progressive fines and jail time.

But the plaintiffs say Alabama’s new immigration law makes it impossible for undocumented homeowners to register their homes and avoid the penalties.

- – - – - – - – - – - -

* The original word there, the standard adjective in most news reports on Alabama’s law, was “tough.” I call BS on describing harsh and punitive laws as “tough.” That’s a word with generally positive connotations and it’s routinely being applied to measures that don’t deserve such praise.

Toughness is a Good Thing, readers think. After all, what would the opposite of a “tough” law be? And so politicians grandstand with new measures that promise to be even “tougher” on immigration or on crime.

Those measures aren’t tough — they’re simply blunt, clumsy, recklessly indiscriminate and counter-productive. Let’s stop pretending that’s the same thing as “toughness.”

  • Anonymous

    Any takers on how long it’ll be until its illegal to own property while Hispanic without having the right documentation?

    This is vile. How can people in Alabama be this…petty. Vicious. Short-sighted. Bigoted?

    How do these people look at their neighbours and think nothing but: “I wonder how I can force them to leave?”

  • http://brandiweed.livejournal.com/ Brandi

    How can people in Alabama be this…petty. Vicious. Short-sighted. Bigoted?

    I was thinking that saying “Tradition?” would be uncalled for, but then I re-read about the Little Rock Nine and the Freedom Riders…

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I would think that most conservatives would align themselves against this law.  After all, this is a pretty clear-cut infringement on private property rights. 

  • Jenny Islander

    Of brown people living in white trash housing.  So they can go to Hell. (I’m trailer trash myself.)

  • Matri

    I would think that most conservatives would align themselves against
    this law.  After all, this is a pretty clear-cut infringement on private
    property rights.

    Of brown people living in white trash housing.  So they can go to Hell.

    Exactly. Rights are only for White American Real True Christians, don’cha know. Them Others aren’t jes’ like them, so they don’t deserve any rights.

    I’m kinda surprised you said they would be against it, since the wording very clearly targets immigrants only. It’s one of the few conservatives’ wet dreams come true. The only thing they would align themselves against is the restraining order.

    After all, treating The Others with compassion is EVIL. The Tribulation Force taught us that.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    What amazes me is that laws invalidating restrictive covenants have been on the books for a while now, and yet Alabama wants to effectively reinstate such covenants for rentals.

  • Anonymous

    The same law also caused the deportation of–a wealthy German who owned an Alabama Mercedes plant. This factory provides 40,000 Alabamians with jobs.

    But no, guys, keep defending that immigration law! It may have been a seriously bad idea, but it was YOUR idea, dammit!

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I’m kinda surprised you said they would be against it, since the wording very clearly targets immigrants only. It’s one of the few conservatives’ wet dreams come true. The only thing they would align themselves against is the restraining order.

    I admit that I tend to project my own experiences onto others who, holding certain strong values, might find those values coming into conflict with one another and stuggling to resolve them, have to assign those values certain priorities where one must be subverted by the other when they clash.  In this case, I suppose I was assuming that the values of private property would be more likely to trump those of immigration law enforcement.  After all, if they are at least owning property then they are at least pumping money back into the local economy and therefor cannot be considered a drag on it, right? 

    However, reading this blog over the years has given me some insight into the notion that, unfortunately, the people who harp on such issues passionately are often capable of holding contradictory ideas in their minds without those ideas coming into conflict and resolving into a more moderate balance.  I can only imaging how difficult that must be, but that is my own experience projecting again. 

  • Anonymous

    Funny how buzz words such as “tough measures” or “financial austerity” always translate as “we’re using the economic crisis to take away whatever rights or legal protection ordinary working people, the jobless and minority groups have somehow managed to acquire.”

  • Anonymous

    I would think that most conservatives would align themselves against
    this law.  After all, this is a pretty clear-cut infringement on private
    property rights

    You’ve made the mistake of assuming conservatives have any kind of ideological consistency.

  • Bardi

    “This is vile. How can people in Alabama be this…petty. Vicious. Short-sighted. Bigoted? ”

    These are people who, when shown how bad they are, and with a great sigh of relief, say, Thank god for Mississippi.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    But no, guys, keep defending that immigration law! It may have been a seriously bad idea, but it was YOUR idea, dammit!

    It’s also ruining the harvest this year, I’ve heard – now that they’ve run all the immigrants out, they can’t find enough cheap labor to get the crops in.

  • Lori

    Semi-off topic: Alabama’s immigration law is putting in a good showing on the list of ways that the world is getting on my last good nerve this year. The big, important things, like the economy and politics are making me angry. The small, trivial things are also ticking me off.  Like the fact that Tom Cruise got himself cast to star in the movie version of a book I love, a role for which he is spectacularly ill-suited and just wrong in every way. On a personal level things also pretty well suck. 

    Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday for years, but this year I’m struggling quite a lot with the while thankfulness thing and that’s putting a damper on this. It’s hard when the list of things you appreciate is all bound up in things that you hate. At least for me, it’s very difficult to deal with that fact that I am simultaneously grateful to have a safe, warm place to live and so sick of living with my family that I want to scream every single day. To deal with this I’ve spent the last few days making a very conscious effort to find things that make me happy. In that process I found something I had to share here because I know there are slacktivites who will understand exactly why I love it. 

    Behold the Dr Suess-style young readers version of The Call of Cthulu: http://flavorwire.com/218421/h-p-lovecrafts-the-call-of-cthulu-as-a-dr-seuss-book#more-218421

  • Anonymous

    He wasn’t deported, he was arrested for lacking identification because the German ID he had wasn’t acceptable under the new law.  He was released after an associate showed up with his passport, and charges were dropped against him yesterday.

    Still a good example of the bad unintended consequences, though.

  • Thebewilderness

    I don’t think, although I could be wrong, that the people of Bama voted for this. More than half of them may well have supported what their state representatives did with this law. I suspect that the unintended consequences are going to get those representative into the deep yoghert.
    We shall see.
    This is the one place where it always surprises me to see collective blaming.

  • Tonio

    “Tough” makes perfect sense if one views others as unruly children who need to be kept in line. That might say more about how the proponents of toughness view themselves.

  • P J Evans

    What amazes me is that laws invalidating restrictive covenants have been
    on the books for a while now, and yet Alabama wants to effectively
    reinstate such covenants for rentals

    I suspect there are a lot of other restrictive laws they’d be happy to re-institute. I wonder what would happen if elected and appointed officials had to prove their own citizenship more often. (‘You need your birth certificate, sir. Or notarized statements by people who know that you were born in the US. No, a driver’s license isn’t sufficient. Do you have a valid US passport, and do you have it with you today?’)

  • P J Evans

     I wonder if it’s like Reagan and “law’n’order”. The people who backed it to the hilt were the first ones complaining when it got applied to them, and they still don’t get that it applies to them, too.

    (Mutter mutter I see way too many people who think that rules shouldn’t apply to them when they’re out in their cars mutter mutter)

  • Emcee, cubed

    Still a good example of the bad unintended consequences, though.

    No, it isn’t. Can people please stop saying this? It is a good example of the intended consequence of this law. The law does not make being in the country illegally a crime. It makes not being able to prove you are in the country legally at a moment’s notice a crime. Therefore, the Mercedes-Benz exec was, in fact, in violation of the law, and should have been arrested. The only “unintended” part here is that they couldn’t actually put in the law that it only applied to brown people, and believed law enforcement would figure that out. Kudos to the cop who applied this ridiculous law fairly, and actually asked the rich white guy in an expensive rental car for proof of immigration status, and following through when it wasn’t produced.

    The fact that the charges were dropped (even though he was guilty), and the governor fell all over himself apologizing for the “mistake” (though no mistake was made), and is now considering “revisions” to the law to keep this from happening in the future (which would be what, exactly? making it explicitly applied only to poor or brown people?) is pretty much proof of who the law is targeting.

  • Anonymous

    Us old folks can remember the Pass Laws in South Africa under apartheid. They looked a lot like this.

  • http://redwoodr.tumblr.com Redwood Rhiadra

    Prejudice and hatred are *far* more important conservative values than private property rights. (Bob Altemeyer discusses how authoritarians tend to score very high on measures of prejudice – if you haven’t read the Authoritarians, you really should).

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    It’s also particularly ironic given how fawning Alabama’s government was over the whole Mercedes thing. The corporate welfare worked out to $200k per job.

  • Emcee, cubed

    It’s also particularly ironic given how fawning Alabama’s government was
    over the whole Mercedes thing. The corporate welfare worked out to
    $200k per job.

    But even with that incentive, Mercedes wasn’t going to build their plant there because the Confederate flag still flew on the State House. It wasn’t until after they finally removed it that Mercedes agreed to build there. So wondering what they think of this new brand of racism and Jim Crow that is pervading the state now. (My favorite* story on this is that some** people have been asked for ID to make cash purchases at Wal-Mart.)

    *read as: this is so mind-bogglingly stupid, I have to laugh at it – the other option including my brain exploding.

    **read as: some brown

  • Anonymous

    That may not be enough to sway them.  Remember, this is Alabama we’re talking about.  They finally abandoned cotton, well after it ceased to be profitable, because of a boll weevil infestation (hence the infamous monument in the small town of Enterprise).

    Alabamians stick to an idea well after it’s been established that it’s a stupid idea.  Don’t expect the immigration law to be repealed until it has well and truly ruined the state’s finances (which weren’t in the best shape to begin with).

  • Anonymous

    I’ve lived there most of my life.  I can honestly see a LOT of people voting for a law to get “their kind” out of the state.  The nasty “them there Mexicans are stealing our jobs” meme is rather popular in most of AL.

    Alabama isn’t a “let’s think about the consequences first” kind of a state.  If something is perceived as possibly returning AL to the imagined “good old days,” most people will jump on it without hesitation.  Especially if it’s backed by Republican politicians and/or the local minister.

  • Anonymous

    Too many people confuse toughness and cruelty with strength. They are not the same. They also tend to confuse kindness and weakness, ignoring that it often takes strength and toughness to be kind.

  • friendly reader

    Love the concept but the poetry is awful. Try reading it out loud, the meter is awkward and the rhyming forced. Dr. Seuss’ real work is far superior.

  • Lori

    Well, Dr Suess wasn’t writing about Elder Gods. 

  • Anonymous

    Reads just like a Lovecraft poem would to me… slowly, with a liberal sprinkling of words like “eldritch” and lots of talk of “madness.” 

    Thus the patron saint of florid language did meet,
    A childlike poet whose meter was neat.

  • Anonymous

    I’m actually gobsmacked first by the need to obtain a yearly permit to live in your mobile home?!

    Is that just another example of the American “poverty tax” or is there some sort of rationale here besides “stick it to ‘em?”

  • Lori

    I don’t know anything specific about the Alabama law, but my guess is that it’s similar to car registration—a combination of money-maker for the state that can be called something other than a tax and means of forcing people to have their car/mobile home inspected on a regular basis. 

  • Jenny Islander

    It may partly be an attempt to shove mobile home parks out of the state.  Forcing mobile home owners off the land where they live and selling that land to developers who build McMansions or condos is an easy way to make money by inflicting hardship on people–excuse me, a time-honored way of adding value to property.

  • Jenny Islander

    Sorry, I meant to add ” . . . which theoretically increases the property tax income for local government.”  By rendering a lot of people homeless and increasing the need for subsidized housing, but never mind.

  • P J Evans

     In California, at least one county requires you to pay property taxes on mobile homes if they’re on a permanent foundation, and that’s the only way you can put it on even your own land; otherwise you have to put it in a park. I think all the ones that aren’t permanently parked have to pay vehicle registration fees of some kind. (There are a lot of trailers and mobile homes used for office space, as well as ‘portable’ classrooms for schools.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    Reads just like a Lovecraft poem would to me… slowly, with a liberal
    sprinkling of words like “eldritch” and lots of talk of “madness.”

    Much of Lovecraft’s poety is actually quite beautiful.

  • Jon Pinyan

    I’m way behind in picking up the Slack, so no one may see this, but the PS reminds me of a blog entry just written by a friend of mine about the pervasive and silly use of “tough” in news articles: http://allermann.blogspot.com/2011/12/getting-tough-on-tough.html


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X