Saturday, April 7, 2012

Ala. proposes more extensive checking of immigrants' status

Alabama legislators are proposing changes to their law cracking down on illegal immigration, promising to clean up some of the complications that arose after it went into effect last year and to solve some of the legal troubles that led a federal judge to block portions of the law.

But the proposed revisions, which came from deliberations between Alabama's Republican governor and GOP leaders in the state Legislature, break ground in the quest by some lawmakers in some states to force illegal immigrants to leave their states.

Alabama's HB 56 mirrored Arizona's immigration law by requiring local law enforcement officers to question the immigration status of drivers during routine traffic stops. Those portions of the law have been blocked by federal judges and are being appealed.

The proposed changes in Alabama soften that provision somewhat, requiring officers to check the immigration status of drivers only after issuing a traffic citation. Legislators added a requirement that officers question the immigration status of other people in the car if a "reasonable suspicion" exists that they are in the country illegally. That proposal has not been included in other tough immigration laws, including Arizona's SB 1070.

Karen Tumlin, managing attorney of the National Immigration Law Center, which has joined other civil rights groups and the Justice Department in lawsuits against state immigration laws, said it was the first time she'd seen such a provision proposed by any state. She expected the proposed changes in Alabama to scale back some of the harsher measures, but said the state instead is taking an "aggressive step forward" in finding ways to make life difficult for illegal immigrants.

"There's no desire to get in line with what other courts have said, in terms of the legality of this provision," Tumlin said. "Instead, they very stridently decided to expand that provision. We don't view this as a softening — this is an expansion."

Todd Stacy, a spokesman for Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard, a Republican, said the new provision was requested by Alabama sheriffs and police chiefs. Stacy said it makes sense that passengers in a vehicle being driven by an illegal immigrant are likely to be illegal immigrants, too.

"Living in the real world, surely it's not just the driver that could be in violation of the law," Stacy said. "So why should the suspicion only apply to the person driving the car when there could be several others in violation of the law?"

The proposed changes were introduced in a bill in the Alabama Legislature that is scheduled for its first committee hearing Wednesday. The bill also:

* Eliminates the requirement that school officials check the immigration status of students enrolling in schools. Instead, the state Department of Education must produce an annual report estimating the cost of educating illegal immigrants, using information gleaned from "reputable scholars, economists or public research institutions."

* Allows non-profit religious organizations to work with illegal immigrants in some areas.

* Makes it easier for legal residents, U.S. citizens and businesses to conduct transactions with the state.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, a Republican, supports the changes, saying they clarify provisions for police and state officials tasked with implementing the new law.

"The essence of the law will not change: Anyone living and working in Alabama must be here legally," Bentley said. "With these revisions, Alabama's law will be more effective, more fair and more clear as we address the issue of illegal immigration."

Portions of HB 56 were put on hold by a federal judge last year, and Alabama is appealing that ruling. The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on the constitutionality of Arizona's SB 1070 this summer. The outcome of that case could influence the battles over laws in Alabama and four other states that passed Arizona-style immigration laws.

Stacy said the new proposal to check the immigration status of passengers in cars likely will face new lawsuits, but he said that would happen no matter what changes are made.

"Some activist groups will not be happy unless the law is repealed," Stacy said. "Will groups like that sue? Probably. But they would probably sue, anyway."


GOP should stop DREAMing

As we move towards the general election, winning the votes of Latinos, the nation’s largest minority group, will be important to the hopes of both parties. Not surprisingly, Democrats and Republicans are searching for issues they believe will appeal to these voters.

Democrats have sought to win over Latinos by promising amnesty for illegal aliens, and are renewing efforts to pass the DREAM Act, which they have deceptively packaged as a “compassionate” amnesty for people who were brought or sent illegally to the United States prior to age 16.

The DREAM Act has consistently failed to pass since it was first introduced in 2000 because most Americans recognize it as a broad amnesty that would benefit millions of illegal aliens well into adulthood.

Even with little chance of passage in 2012, Democrats are using it as an election year ploy to force Republicans to block the bill and then cite that as evidence of Republican hostility to Latinos.

Republicans appear to be taking the bait.

Republicans on both sides of Capitol Hill are scrambling furiously to come up with their own version of the DREAM Act, aptly described by The Hill newspaper as “Republicans trying to have to both ways by trying to ingratiate themselves with Hispanic voters without offending…conservatives within their base.”

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, the GOP front man for the DREAM Act 2.0, has been appearing on cable news programs to talk up his unfinished bill, the details of which he refuses to reveal.

Besides Rubio, two other high-profile lame duck senators, Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), are reported to be working on an equally secret version of the DREAM Act.

In the House, Rep. David Rivera (R-Fla.) has issued a press release, though not an actual bill, touting his own version of the DREAM Act.

Besides being an inept political stunt that is unlikely to gain them much traction among Latino voters, the DREAM Act 2.0 is based on the same flawed premises that makes the Democrats’ DREAM Act a bad idea.

Americans empathize with people who find themselves in a difficult situation because their parents illegally brought them to this country.  But they also understand that it is the parents who created the situation and that rewarding their actions, by granting legal status to their children, will only encourage more people to violate our immigration laws.

Moreover, the conditions attached to qualifying for all versions of the DREAM Act would heap new burdens on America’s already overburdened public higher education system.

Inevitably, all versions of the DREAM Act would come at great expense to American taxpayers and to Americans seeking to get through college themselves, or upgrade their own skills.

The DREAM Act by its very nature shifts the consequences of breaking the law from the people who broke it, the parents, to those the law was intended to protect – the American people.

Unfortunately, children do suffer from the bad decisions made by their parents.  But in every other circumstance we hold the offending parents responsible for the difficulties their actions cause family members.

Moreover, if we feel morally compelled to grant amnesty to the current cohort of people who were brought here illegally as minors, the inevitable consequence will be millions more people bringing their kids to this country illegally in the expectation that America will feel the same obligation to their children in a few years' time.

Besides being an unjustified amnesty that would harm the interests of law-abiding Americans, pandering on immigration will not help the GOP close the gap with Latino voters.

All polls of Latino voters show that immigration ranks fairly far down on their list of concerns, far below bread and butter economic issues.

Ironically, Rubio himself acknowledged that political reality as he tight-roped his way through an interview with Juan Williams on Fox News Latino.

After 15 minutes of revealing nothing about his version of the DREAM Act, Rubio finally said something that made sense. Rubio noted that most Latinos hail from countries where governments run the economies, and do it poorly. If Republicans want to woo Latino voters, Rubio suggested, the best way to do it is to offer them “economic empowerment.”

Economic empowerment, whether it comes from Republicans or Democrats, is not only a pretty good platform to win Latino votes, but just about everyone else’s vote.

Pandering to Latino voters with the DREAM Act 2.0 not only won’t impress voters who are committed to amnesty for illegal aliens, but would only exacerbate the problem of illegal immigration.


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