Opponents Dominate Public Hearing on Bill to Tweak Immigration Law


By Morgan Hightower

What was supposed to be a public hearing on proposed revisions to Alabama's illegal immigration law became a firing squad for opponents to show their disgust and disapproval of HB56.

“I'm embarrassed to be from and live in the state of HB56,” said one opponent.

The House Public Safety and Homeland Security committee held the hearing to discuss revisions that the bill's sponsor says will make it stronger.

“We feel like it makes it more enforceable, better and I know we have people who are probably not happy on both sides,” said Representative Micky Hammon, R – Decatur.

One person who is torn on the revisions is original bill sponsor Senator Scott Beason.

“My concern from the get-go is that if you change too many sections of the law, it gives the opponent the ability to go to the 11th Circuit and say ‘wait a minute, this is a whole new law, we need to start this through the legal process again,’” said Beason, R- Gardendale.

But Rep. Hammon is confident these changes will clarify the bill's constitutionality.

Lawmakers have gotten input from law enforcement officers and the Attorney General in crafting these revisions.

“We're not intending on harassing people all over the state for their ID every day. We want it to address the issues that will help us control illegal immigration in the state of Alabama.”

Hammon says the new bill will strengthen penalties for breaking this law, make the law more workable for cities and businesses, and adjusts sections to comply with federal law.

Opponents like Victor Palafox say revisions aren't enough.

“I appreciate the intention of tweaking the bill, but you can’t defend something that has no defense.”

“If this is who you say you are religiously, you have to stand against this.”

Reverend Steve Jones from Birmingham is vocal about his stance against HB56.

He's appeared in a TV ad asking lawmakers to repeal the legislation, and says if he followed this law he'd be turning his back on his faith.

“We will harbor, we will feed, we will transport, because our faith demands us to do this,” said Jones.

Of the several dozen people who spoke Wednesday, only a few were in favor of the legislation.

“I think we should think about security more than an individual who comes to this country illegally, illegally, and gets all the rights and benefits,” said George Williams, supporter.

The committee heard hours of debate but didn't vote on the bill.

Although it’s widely opposed by certain groups, legislative leaders expect it to pass.

State Senator Billy Beasley of Clayton has introduced legislation to repeal HB56.

Governor Robert Bentley has said there is no chance for that to happen.

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