Special session called to discuss immigration law
by Daniel Gaddy
May 18, 2012 | 1272 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Salvador Cervantes lights a row of candles for a vigil held to protest Alabama’s immigration law at the steps of the Alabama State House in Montgomery on Tuesday, May 8. Photo by: Daniel Gaddy
Salvador Cervantes lights a row of candles for a vigil held to protest Alabama’s immigration law at the steps of the Alabama State House in Montgomery on Tuesday, May 8. Photo by: Daniel Gaddy
Gov. Robert Bentley on Thursday called for a special session of the state legislature to further address Alabama’s newly tweaked immigration law.

While state legislators representing Walker County agree with Bentley’s call for simplification and clarification of the law, a local minister says the legislation is completely unjust.

State lawmakers rejected a repeal of the immigration law last week.

On Wednesday, however, the Alabama legislature passed a bill, HB 658, that proponents say clarifies provisions in the state’s immigration law that were causing problems for law abiding citizens.

Much of the bill includes more explicit definitions for terms like contractors, subcontractors and projects, to help legally clarify transactions for businesses and local governments. It also increases the penalties for businesses that knowingly hire illegal immigrants or residents that knowingly harbor them.

The legislation also allows police officers to question the immigration status of not only the driver of a vehicle but the passengers during a traffic stop.

The proposed law did not change or repeal provisions that were protested or challenged in court, like a measure requiring school systems to ask children their immigration status and the status of their parents.

Rather than signing the bill into a law or vetoing it, Bentley called for the special session in order to address the school issue, which has been prohibited by a federal court.

A statement released by the governor’s office said, “Governor Bentley believes that revising this section to prevent children from being interrogated would allow the injunction to be lifted, making the law more effective.”

Each of Walker County’s lawmakers said they agree with the governor and don’t believe educators should be asked to collect immigration data.

“They have enough to already,” said. Rep. Bill Roberts (R-Jasper).

According to a press release, the special session Bentley called will also include discussion of a proposed addition to the law that would require the Department of Homeland Security to publish the names of illegal immigrants who were involved in court proceedings throughout the state. Critics call the measure the “Scarlet Letter Provision.”

Bentley said in the release that such a list would be counterproductive and take away from the original intent of the law.

“The essence of the law must remain the same, and that is if you live or work in Alabama, you must do so legally,” Governor Bentley said in the release. “We must make sure that final revisions to the immigration law make the law more effective, help promote economic growth, ensure fairness, and provide greater clarity on the application of the law. I believe these additional revisions will help us as we accomplish those goals. A more effective, enforceable bill is a stronger bill.”

River “Rio” D’Angelo, pastor of Sumiton Church of God’s Hispanic ministry, has participated in rallies at Montgomery and lobbied lawmakers to repeal the immigration law. He said he has voiced his opposition to the law because several members of his congregation — members who are in the state legally — have experienced problems such as delays in their naturalization and even denials of business loans.

D’Angelo said Alabama’s immigration law is immoral and unconstitutional. He said the real answer to the immigration problem in America is streamlining the path to citizenship.

He compared the tweaks of the law to making slight changes to Jim Crow laws of the 1960s, which separated African Americans from whites in regard to public education and transportation.

“They’re just wrong,” he said. “I know I sound like Malcolm X with brown skin tone now, but it’s a bunch of white men in this country that make laws for the black and the brown folks and that’s why they don’t work.”