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Beverly Hills, California, United States
Eli Kantor is a labor, employment and immigration law attorney. He has been practicing labor, employment and immigration law for more than 36 years. He has been featured in articles about labor, employment and immigration law in the L.A. Times, Business Week.com and Daily Variety. He is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal. Telephone (310)274-8216; eli@elikantorlaw.com. For more information, visit beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com and and beverlyhillsemploymentlaw.com


Monday, December 19, 2011

Alabama's Second Thoughts

New York Times (Editorial): Alabama's stance on its extremist immigration law is shifting from defiance to damage control. Gov. Robert Bentley admitted this month that the law needed fixing and promised that he and legislative leaders would do that in next year's session. His retreat followed a letter from the state's attorney general, Luther Strange, to legislative leaders suggesting that they throw out whole sections of the law to make it easier to defend in court.

When Mr. Bentley signed the law in June, he ignored warnings from legal experts and civil-rights advocates that it would curtail rights for all Alabamians, criminalize routine business transactions and acts of charity, encourage racial profiling, and cast an unconstitutional chill on school enrollment. The governor and legislators were also warned - apparently not by Mr. Strange - that the law would attract multiple lawsuits and pummel the economy, particularly farming when immigrant workers fled.

The warnings have all come true. After a visiting Mercedes-Benz manager was caught driving without his license and taken to jail as a potential illegal immigrant, Governor Bentley had to reassure foreign investors that they were still welcome. The law has created mass confusion, because nobody knows what it really requires or what parts the court might throw out at any moment. In just one example, some utilities are threatening to shut off customers without the right papers, while others, like Alabama Power, say they would not dream of doing that.

Mr. Strange's letter came after, as predicted, he spent six months trying to defend the law in court and in public. At one point he even challenged the federal government's authority to investigate civil-rights abuses committed under the law. A federal appeals court has temporarily blocked parts of the law; most recently, a judge issued a restraining order preventing Alabama from denying trailer-home licenses to people it decides are here illegally.

Now Mr. Strange is urging lawmakers to drop some major provisions, including:
  • The requirement that schools collect immigration data on children and parents, which he said would cost too much for the benefit it would provide.
  • The part making it a crime for immigrants not to carry their papers, which is illegal under federal law.
  • The part barring people from college if they do not have documents, because some people, like certain refugees, can be here legally without documents.
  • The sections that allow Alabama residents to sue officials they believe are not adequately enforcing the law, because of conflicts with the state Constitution.
Mr. Strange would leave other parts of the law intact or simply tweaked, like the one criminalizing the harboring and transporting of illegal immigrants. He only wants to clarify, not drop, the part of the law that nullifies contracts signed by undocumented immigrants.

Even if lawmakers accept Mr. Strange's proposals, it still will not undo the harm - to the undocumented, to all Alabamians, to the state's image and economy. This law is indefensible. The only solution is repeal.

Unfortunately, too many of Alabama's politicians still don't get it. Mike Hubbard, the House speaker, vowed on Facebook, "we're not going to repeal or weaken the law, acquiescing to liberal elites, and the news media's efforts to intimidate and shame Alabama." And 12 senators have written to the governor, urging him not to retreat.

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