by Joe Guzzardi
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Last month, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley signed legislation (HB 56) that requires the use of E-Verify by all state employers. The law also gives Alabama some of the country’s strongest illegal-immigration enforcement tools.
Over the last decade, illegal immigration has increased in Alabama by 325 percent.
In a statement that underlines how over-immigration hurts American workers State Senator Scott Beason, a HB 56 cosponsor, said, “This is a jobs bill. We have a problem with an illegal workforce that displaces Alabama workers. We need to put those people back to work. That’s the No.1 priority.”
Another supporter, Republican state Rep. John Merrill said he didn’t hesitate to back the legislation because it is “good for Alabama” and will reduce illegal immigration into the state while “providing equal opportunities for all because who want to come to Alabama legally.” HB 56 requires all businesses, public and private, to begin using E-Verify effective April 1, 2012. Businesses that do not comply face suspension of their license and loss of employee expensing for state income tax purposes.
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Other features of HB 56 will create misdemeanors for hiring day-laborers when Americans are available, failing to carry an alien registration card, producing fake ID and aiding and abetting illegal immigrants. It also will ban illegal aliens from attending state universities and colleges as well as prohibit sanctuary city policies.
In an effort to determine what the exact costs are of education for illegal alien children, HB 56 requires elementary and secondary schools to request a birth certificate for all enrolling students. That provision will enable Alabama to determine whether such minors were born outside of the U.S. or are children of illegal aliens requiring English-as-a-Second-language classes.
Detractors like the Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center’s legal director Mary Bauer quickly labeled HB 56 “mean-spirited, racist, unconstitutional and going to be costly.”
But Bauer and others who oppose strong immigration enforcement measures are tilting at windmills. Enforcement is high on the list of states’ government priorities. As many as 30 are considering or currently drafting legislation similar to Alabama’s for the simple reason that they are broke and can no longer afford to provide services and jobs to illegal aliens. Rep. Micky Hammon, the measure’s original sponsor, added that the bill was carefully drafted to be sound constitutionally. Challenges to the Arizona E-Verify law may have encouraged Alabama’s meticulous care in determining its language.
More important, two recent Supreme Court decisions have upheld states’ rights to enforce immigration laws. In 5-3 decisions, the high court sided with Arizona and Hazleton (PA.) by allowing enforcement of local laws that prohibit employers from knowingly hiring illegal aliens and confirmed that state governments can force the use of E-Verify even though Congress has never mandated its use.
About the court’s decision last month on the Arizona case, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote: “(Federal law) expressly reserves to the states the authority to impose sanctions on employers hiring unauthorized workers, through licensing and similar laws. In exercising that authority, Arizona has taken the route least likely to cause tension with federal law.”
With the handwriting on the wall, business lobbies like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce should work with Congress for a national bill instead of allowing each state to have its own version of E-Verify legislation.
Joe Guzzardi has written editorial columns—mostly about immigration and related social issues – since 1986. He is a senior writing fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) and his columns have frequently been syndicated in various U.S. newspapers and websites. He can be reached at JoeGuzzardi@CAPSweb.org