Friday, April 20, 2012

Alabama House passes immigration law revisions

The House on Thursday passed revisions to the controversial anti-illegal immigration law the Legislature approved in 2011.

After more than five hours of debate and an hour of reading the lengthy bill, the House on a vote of 64-34 passed a new bill that revises House Bill 56, which led to lawsuits, demonstrations, a few misdemeanor arrests and intensive media coverage.

After a federal court struck down parts of the law, Gov. Robert Bentley and others called for revisions.  The revision, House Bill 658, was by Rep. Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, author of the original bill that passed largely along party lines — as was the case Thursday.

Hammon said he sponsored the original law because he believes the federal government has failed to prevent illegal immigrants from entering Alabama, taking jobs and using public benefits.

He said revisions contained in his new bill will strengthen the existing law by limiting the number of times identification must be provided by citizens when conducting simple government business such as renewing a driver’s license or vehicle registration.

“This is to make it easier on our law-abiding citizens,” Hammon said. “We have changed some language that deals with some of the judge’s rulings.”

Rep. Blaine Galliher, R-Rainbow City, voted for the bill but believes the revisions did not weaken the immigration law.

“There were some areas (in last year’s bill) that needed clarification in regards to government entities that deal with the general public,” Galliher said. “There were some clarifications that were needed for problems that were creating significant complications for some of the industries. I think what we did was strengthen it in some areas, clarified in some areas and made it simpler to understand and simpler to enforce.

“When you have a complicated piece of legislation, you have to make adjustments, and that’s what we did,” Galliher said.

Rep. Kerry Rich, R-Albertville, one of two Republicans to vote against the bill, said it weakened penalties by giving judges the discretion to suspend licenses. He said the immigration law hasn’t hurt Albertville as much as portrayed with the “self-deportation” of immigrants after last year’s law was passed.

Most of the opposition came from black lawmakers, who said they especially didn’t like a part of the bill that would allow police officers to check identification of vehicle passengers if they ticket a driver during a simple traffic stop.

“This encourages profiling,” said Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa. “I don’t believe my constituents want me here to support a bill that allows them to be arrested for a traffic stop.”

Hammon said the bill aligns with current law on reasonable suspicion involving passengers of a vehicle during a traffic stop. “This language will mirror the other laws we have in the state and fall in line with what law enforcement officers do now,” he said.

Hammon said if a police officer suspects illegal activity, he or she can seek identification from vehicle passengers.


Tough proposal in Canada

If you’re on employment insurance, start paying attention to temporary foreign labourers in your community. You might be asked to take over their jobs in the not-too-distant future.

In his visit to Halifax on Thursday, Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney stopped short of making what’s sure to be a controversial announcement. On Wednesday, he had told the National Post’s editorial board that Canada’s EI program will be tied to its immigration program.

Unemployed Canadians will be “required” to take local jobs that employers are now filling with foreign labour, the newspaper said.

In Halifax, Kenney did not confirm that workers will be forced to work those jobs or lose their benefits, despite repeated questions from reporters wondering if laid-off professionals will be driven to work as fruit pickers or in low-paying service jobs.

Kenney described the program more as a communication effort linking open jobs with unemployed Canadians. Employers applying for immigrant labour will be turned back to their own communities and told to offer the jobs there first.

But the minister said he’s leaving the details of the announcement to Human Resources Minister Diane Finley.  “She’ll be dealing with the details and the application of this,” he said.

“My understanding is that, in general, the way the EI program works is that beneficiaries are required to look for work, apply for work that’s available, and take it when it’s available. I think that’s always been the case.”


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