Retool an Unjust Law?

By: Daniel Nardini

The number of lawsuits and complaints against Alabama’s state immigration law have prompted even Alabama Governor Robert Bentley to state that the law should be “retooled.” The law calls for local and state police to “demand” individual’s identification to prove they are either U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. In addition, the law forbids the state from giving driver’s licenses to people who cannot prove they are U.S. citizens or are legally in the United States and deny business licenses to those who cannot prove they are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. In addition, the law stipulates that the parents of children must prove that they are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. To put it mildly, the law is seen as a violation not only of federal immigration law but also of the civil and human rights of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents because they may be mistaken for being undocumented. The law is also a violation of the rights of undocumented who fear they may be targeted by criminals and employers because they are vulnerable.

How does one retool a law that in essence assumes someone is automatically guilty? Apart from the law being wrong for giving the state the power to do something that is clearly in the realm of the federal government, this law assumes that a person who cannot produce the “required” paperwork is automatically under suspicion and can be jailed. This is in total contradiction to our Constitution that makes it clear that no one can be arrested, jailed or threatened without due cause and only after proven to a court which must issue a warrant for such due cause. This state immigration law is standing the judicial system on its head. If you are of a particular group of people then you are automatically under suspicion (can we say “racial profiling” people?!). And of course the people being most targeted are Latinos and the Latino communities in Alabama.

The state immigration has also brought international disrepute to Alabama. Two legal foreign workers at the Honda car plant in Birmingham (the state capital) had been threatened with jail if they did not prove they were legally there. The charges were eventually dropped, but not before Honda threatened to withdraw its plant and investments in the state. The state immigration law has devastated the Latino communities, has forced Latino and non-Latino businesses out of the state, has caused a serious labor and even brain drain from the state, and has even threatened foreign investment to look elsewhere to protect their workers. With all of these things hitting the state now because of its state immigration law, and a state unemployment rate of 10 percent, the state legislators and the governor are rethinking their immigration law. Somehow, some way, they believe that they can make the law “more humane” and in step with federal law. The fact of the matter is that a law that puts individuals and whole groups of people into a guilty category can never be retooled, made humane or in step with federal law. The law must be scrapped altogether. It is that simple.

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