In Alabama, a Harsh Bill for Residents Here Illegally

The New  York Times, 6/4/2011

Alabama has passed a sweeping bill to crack down on illegal immigrants that both supporters and opponents call the toughest of its kind in the country, going well beyond a law Arizona passed last year that caused a furor there.

The measure was passed by large margins in the Alabama Senate and the House, both Republican-controlled, in votes on Thursday. Governor Robert Bentley, a Republican, is expected to sign the bill into law.

“Alabama is now the new No. 1 state for immigration enforcement,” said Kris Kobach, a constitutional lawyer who is secretary of state in Kansas. He has helped write many state bills to curtail illegal immigration, including Alabama’s.

“This bill invites discrimination into every aspect of the lives of people in Alabama,” said Cecillia Wang, director of the immigrants’ rights project of the American Civil Liberties Union, which has brought legal challenges against several state immigration-control laws. Calling Alabama’s bill “outrageous and blatantly unconstitutional,” Ms. Wang said, “We will take action if the governor signs it.”

The Alabama bill includes a provision similar to one that stirred controversy in Arizona, authorizing state and local police officers to ask about the immigration status of anyone they stop based on a “reasonable suspicion” the person is an illegal immigrant. Federal courts have suspended most of that Arizona law.

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