HB 56, Alabama's notorious bill that is perhaps the most draconian anti-immigrant law in the country, has provoked a nonstop flood of controversy since its enactment. It has been enjoined by a federal judge and denounced by the U.S. Department of Justice. It brought howls of protest from farmers, one of the largest economic sectors in the state, as they saw their crops rot in the fields. Thousands of students were pulled out of schools by frightened parents, and the law's implications overwhelmed educators, putting the education of every Alabama child at risk. Not to mention, this is happening in a state which ranks at or near the bottom of all 50 states on educational progress. A storm of outrage has rained down on Alabama, resulting in a host of local and national rallies and marches in opposition to Alabama's return to the dark days of the Jim Crow era.
Even a dispassionate examination of the situation reveals the remarkable toll HB 56 has taken and will continue to take on Alabama. The Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Alabama estimates that the state will lose at least $10 billion, 140,000 jobs, and nearly $400 million in tax revenue. And it's getting worse. Alabama's farmers have already announced that they are cutting back on production in an attempt to avoid the massive losses they experienced last year.
All of this has created enormous pressure on the legislature, and especially Governor Robert Bentley, to take action. Certainly state legislators could see that they used a shotgun to kill a fly on the wall (Alabama has one of the smallest foreign-born populations of any state) and ended up with a giant hole on the side of their house. Bentley implored the legislature to revisit the legislation. But did they get out the repair kit? No, the legislature instead pulled out a cannon.
The bill that just passed the legislature and was signed by the Governor--the alleged fix--still has virtually all of the provisions that got Alabama into this mess in the first place. It still legalizes profiling. It still turns schools into immigration enforcement agencies.
But the legislature didn't stop there; instead, they doubled down on a losing hand. The law now contains a nonsensical and decidedly unconstitutional provision that requires the state to publish the name of all illegal immigrants who appear in court for violations of state law, regardless of whether they are convicted or not--to what purpose, other than state-sanctioned harassment of immigrants and courts alike, no one can say.
It's hard to know whether these legislators are being willfully ignorant of reality or just stubbornly refusing to acknowledge that they made a big mistake. Time will tell what the cost of making a political point rather than solving a problem will be for these legislators. In the meantime, the price is being paid by their constituents. For their sake, this law needs to be repealed.
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