On February 7, 2012, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley delivered a State of the State address at the Capitol in Montgomery, Alabama. While a combined session of the Alabama Legislature listened to the address, which did not address immigration issues, protestors outside voiced concerns about Alabama’s immigration laws. Immigration laws in Alabama have been a source of debate for months. Advocates of the laws saying that the laws are necessary to crack down on undocumented workers while opponents say that the laws are oppressive and unjustly target people.
Law enforcement officials, religious groups, and other organized groups have all voiced concerns about the laws, and now legislators in the state have stated that they will make proposed changes to some of the more controversial parts of the laws. The proposed changes are expected to come within the next two weeks. Experts predict that the changes will not overhaul the laws but will rather alter them.
According to House Majority Leader Micky Hammon, who sponsored the immigration legislation which passed into law in 2011, has stated that the new proposed changes, which have not been defined yet, will not represent a major change to the current immigration laws. Experts predict that the proposed changes will not relax the current crackdown on illegal immigration in the state.
Alabama’s immigration laws, passed last year, have been considered by many to be harshest clampdown on illegal immigration in the US. The law has also created some legal problems, with questions raised about whether the state can pass its own immigration laws, which are different than federal laws. Courts have already rejected some parts of the law, including a part of the law that made it mandatory for schools to confirm and check up on the immigration status of students. Other parts of the law may also come under fire from court systems.
Some legislators are opposed to the current immigration laws in Alabama. Sen. Billy Beasley, for example, has spoken out about the laws passed last year and has pre-filed a bill aimed to repeal that legislation. However, even he admits that with a Republican-controlled Legislature it will be difficult to have that immigration law repealed. However, he has hopes that some legislators are seeing that the bill is hurting Alabama, especially those parts of the state that rely on immigrant labor for agricultural work.
Last week, the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee passed a bill which allows military identification cards to be used as evidence of citizenship status. Some see this as an initial step in changing the immigration laws.