Yesterday, the Alabama Legislature fell into the same costly trap as neighboring Georgia by following the ill-fated footsteps of Arizona and passing harsh anti-immigrant legislation. The bill, H.B. 56, will not only set back years of progress on civil rights in the state but will also add considerably to Alabama's existing budget crisis.
If Gov. Bentley signs H.B. 56 into law, Alabama, already struggling financially, will waste hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of taxpayer dollars to defend this racist law in court.
We joined a number of other civil rights organizations in a lawsuit challenging the Georgia law because it is unconstitutional. The courts have already blocked the notorious Arizona law, which served as a model to Georgia and Alabama, and the courts also blocked a copycat law in Utah last month. These laws have been consistently declared illegal and unconstitutional by the courts.
This cost will threaten the safety and security of all Alabamians by diverting already limited resources away from law enforcement's primary responsibility – protecting and promoting public safety. It will also result in an increase in crime if undocumented immigrants who are crime victims are afraid to contact local police.
But there's an even greater cost to consider. This ill-advised bill undermines our core American values of fairness and equality. By perpetuating the hate rhetoric that has become commonplace among many elected officials, this bill threatens the rights of citizens and non-citizens alike. H.B. 56 attacks workers trying to make a better life for their families, divides communities, and places Alabama, once again, on the wrong side of history.
The Southern Poverty Law Center will continue to fight against laws that create a climate of fear for immigrants. If the governor does not veto H. B. 56, the SPLC will challenge the law in court. Illegal and harmful bills like this will not go unchallenged.