On Tuesday the Alabama House passed by a wide margin a bill that would make it a state crime to be an undocumented immigrant. Alabama joins Georgia and South Carolina, whose state legislatures have also advanced laws inspired by Arizona’s anti-immigrant SB 1070. Dozens of similar bills that have spread through legislatures since last spring have largely failed or stalled.
Like Arizona’s law, Alabama’s bill would require people who are being investigated to be held in jail while police officers verify their immigration status. It would also make it a crime to give a job, a ride or shelter to an undocumented immigrant.
"This bill is designed to make it difficult for them to live here so they will deport themselves," Rep. Micky Hammon said during the floor debate, Birmingham News reported. The bill now goes to the Senate.
Arizona’s SB 1070 empowered police to ask for proof of a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws and to detain people who they had reasonable suspicion to believe were in the state without papers. Civil rights advocates said that the law, the most controversial portions of which are tied up in courts after the federal government sued Arizona, legalizes racial profiling of the state’s Latino residents.
Introducing anti-immigrant legislation has been all the rage in state legislatures since Arizona’s bill passed, but many bills have fallen flat, lacking the political momentum to make it to the floor. As Seth Freed Wessler reported, as of March 31, SB 1070 copycat bills had failed in 10 of the 24 states where they’d been introduced, and none had passed both chambers and made it into law.
Many states have been swayed by lobbying from business owners, who’ve argued that anti-immigrant laws are bad economic policy. Not only do immigrants of all statuses contribute to their local economies, they argue, SB 1070 has cost Arizona an estimated hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue as a result of a boycott targeting the state.