As predicted, Arizona’s fiery immigration policies are having a chain reaction effect on other states. Several states have attempted to institute laws that are similar to Arizona’s controversial SB 1070 law. The most recent state to join the fray is Alabama, which passed a tough immigration law just a few weeks ago.
Now, we here at LegalMatch have blogged extensively about Arizona’s policies, which touch upon several aspects of immigration including birthright citizenship and employer punishments. However, Alabama’s law contains many unique restrictions on illegal immigrants that are not included in any other state policies. The law is poised to go into effect this September and contains the following provisions:
- All business must check the legal immigration status of all workers using the E-Verify system
- Schools will be required to find out if all students are in the country legally (data is to be used for the purpose of “statistical analysis” rather than preventing students from enrolling)
- Permits police to arrest persons suspected of being an illegal alien if stopped for a different reason
- Makes it a crime for persons to knowingly give rides to illegal immigrants
- Makes it a crime for a landlord to knowingly rent property to an illegal immigrant
- Makes all contracts entered into by an illegal immigrant unenforceable
Now that’s an extensive list. The law also contains other provisions which have not been elaborated upon, including a restriction on voting.
Hands down, the most controversial aspects of the new law are the requirements regarding schools and landowners. Many feel that the new regulations will allow for more extensive criminal profiling in areas that have traditionally been less vigilant.
Yet, as drastic as it is, Alabama’s new baby is getting much less attention compared to Arizona’s law. Some writers are surprised at the lack of outrage towards the new law, given its unprecedented reach and scope. To me there are several reasons why many people don’t know (or care) about the Yellowhammer State’s immigration developments.
For one, the illegal immigrant population in Alabama is not as pronounced as in other states like California or Arizona. It is estimated to be at about 120,000 people. While this indicates a nearly 5x increase over the last decade, this is still a very minimal figure comparatively speaking. Also, the state of Alabama is not really well-known for being reliant upon immigrant work like Arizona is. So the question of regulating illegal immigrants is somewhat more separate from the economic aspects of Alabamian life.
But I think that what’s really happening is this- we are simply getting used to hearing about the introduction of doomsday-like illegal immigration policies all over the nation. Most readers are probably saying to themselves, “Oh, another one?”
Some legal experts feel that the law will be able to withstand legal challenges which are sure to be mounted against it. The main justification is that Alabama has a legitimate state interest in enforcing such strict measures. And then there’s the argument that illegal immigrants don’t have any citizens rights because they are not part of “The People” as defined in the Constitution.
Personally I agree that the immigration situation is a problem. And I agree with certain measures in the Alabama law, especially the one that requires employers to check and register workers with E-Verify.
However, I do feel that Alabama could accomplish its aims using much less restrictive means. In particular, the requirements for schools, landlords, and contract rights are questionable in my opinion. Rather than making national immigration policies more efficient, these requirements seem to exist only for the purpose of frustrating the immigrant population.
In fact, the first thing I thought about when I learned about property restrictions on illegal immigrants in Alabama was America’s immigrant policies during World War II. During that time in the 1940’s, Japanese-Americans were forbidden from owning real estate, and many Japanese-American citizens lost a significant amount of property due to internment policies.
Granted, that was a time of war and such extreme policies were enforced out of military necessity. But in this regard, Alabama’s latest law does seem to send the message: America is at war. Ok, maybe it’s not an all out military war, but this is definitely a conflict, and certainly one involving boundaries and territory. For many, illegal immigration is a serious matter that is nearly tantamount to an act of war.
We’ll have yet to see if the times really are so dire as to require these restrictive measures against illegal aliens. I project that some of the Alabama provisions will stand (namely, the E-Verify requirements) while many of the other ones will be required to stand down.