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Alabama revamps tough immigration law

Jeff Tyler Apr 6, 2012

Alabama has some of the harshest immigration laws in the country, but there’s a re-write underway. Some of the reforms could help out business. Other parts could make life harder for undocumented immigrants. Marketplace’s Jeff Tyler reports on what kind of impact it could all have on Alabama’s economy.

Jeff Tyler: The current immigration law in Alabama – known as HB-56 – bans undocumented immigrants from working or entering into contracts with the state. Cooper Shattuck is chief legal advisor for Governor Robert Bentley. He says the re-write will, among other things, clarify the state’s law.

Cooper Shattuck: The bill, as it’s been amended, focuses efforts on employers and employees within the state of Alabama doing work.

Shattuck says the governor supports the re-write. At the same time, he says the original law wasn’t so bad for business.

Shattuck: We believe that the economic impact of the original bill has probably been over-stated.

Mary Bauer is legal director at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Mary Bauer: We have heard over and over and over again from businesses that HB – 56 has been a disaster for them.

She says a recent University of Alabama study shows that the state’s immigration laws cost Alabama a million dollars a day in lost tax revenue. Revenue coming from undocumented immigrants mostly through the state’s sales tax. Bauer says, in some respects, the new reform bill is even harsher on undocumented immigrants.

Bauer: They actually added a new provision that requires police officers to inquire about the status, of not just the driver, but other passengers in the car. Which is a significant expansion. And in our view, a change for the worse.

Another Alabama bill would repeal the current immigration law altogether. Both state bills are expected to move to committee next week.

I’m Jeff Tyler for Marketplace.

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