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ACLU Lens: Alabama Governor Signs New Anti-Immigrant Measure into Law

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May 18, 2012

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley late Friday signed a measure that makes small changes to the state’s anti-immigrant law. The move came a day after he signaled he might veto the measure because he found two key parts unacceptable, including a “scarlet letter” provision that would have branded many law-abiding immigrants as criminals.

Despite his reservations, Bentley said he signed the measure to “remove the distraction of immigration” from a special session of the Legislature he called this week, and allow what he called “progress made in the legislation to move forward.”

However, the changes in the original law, HB56, did nothing to address its fundamental flaws and creates a new distraction, said Olivia Turner, executive director of the ACLU of Alabama.

“Governor Bentley had the opportunity to send a message to lawmakers that the racial profiling, discrimination and fear these laws spark must be stopped,” Turner said. “Sadly, he declined. We are hopeful the courts will soon overturn these shameful measures once and for all.”

Bentley had told reporters Thursday he wanted lawmakers to address provisions in HB 56 that would require public schools to ask children about their status when they enrolled. He had also expressed reservations about a new requirement that the state Department of Homeland Security post online the names of undocumented immigrants who appear in state courts and the decisions made by judges who hear their cases. Advocates say this “scarlet letter” requirement is a way to intimidate judges while exposing immigrants to vigilantism.

The ACLU and a coalition of civil rights groups, along with the U.S. Justice Department, filed suit against HB56, large portions of which have been blocked by federal courts. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit is expected to issue a ruling on the law, and a similar one from Georgia, after the U.S. Supreme Court issues its decision next month on the constitutionality of Arizona’s anti-immigrant law.

“It’s regrettable the governor ignored the urgent calls for change from educators, businesses and farmers who have seen how detrimental this law has been in so many parts of the state,” said Cecillia Wang, director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. “We are hopeful the courts will show him the error of his ways.”

In the news:

Montgomery Advertiser: Alabama Immigration Law Changes Signed by Gov. Robert Bentley

Bloomberg: Alabama Governor Approves Immigration Law Change He Opposed

USA Today: Alabama Governor Signs Revisions Targeting Immigrants

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