Alabama, Where Intolerance is King

Now that Alabama has passed what some describe as the harshest anti-immigration law in the country, it is interesting to see how Alabama has improved on the harsh anti-immigration ordinances passed by a small municipality.

In 2006 Hazleton, Pennsylvania passed two ordinances, one with the cheerful title of the “City of Hazleton Illegal Immigration Relief Act Ordinance” (IIRAO) and the other known as the “Rental Registration Ordinance (RRO).” The RRO requires, among other things, that anyone wanting to rent a residential property in Hazleton must first obtain an occupancy permit from the city. Any owner who permits people to occupy rental units without an occupancy permit must pay $1000 for each tenant who lacks the permit plus $100 per day per tenant for each day the tenant lacks a permit. Illegal aliens cannot receive permits.

The IIRAO provides that an employer hiring an illegal immigrant will lose its business license and gives individual employees the right to sue their employer for damages if they are fired when illegal aliens are employed. In 2010 the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit struck down most of the ordinances’ provisions. As a result, illegal immigrants who don’t mind living in a hostile environment continue to live and work in Hazleton. (That may soon change. On June 6 the U.S. Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari to Hazleton that had appealed the Third Circuit’s decision. The Supreme Court remanded the case to the Third Circuit to reconsider its earlier decision in light of a case decided by the Court in Chamber of Commerce v. Whiting on May 26. By the time the Hazleton case finds its way back to the Supreme Court , Chief Justice Roberts and four of his colleagues may well give the immigrants reason to leave Hazleton.)

Although Hazleton’s approaches seemed harsh, Alabama has equaled if not exceeded them in a new law enacted in June. Known as the “Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act”, the Alabama legislation includes a number of provisions that Hazleton forgot to include. That is hardly surprising since the Alabama law is 76 pages in length, considerably longer than the Hazleton ordinances. One of its more offensive provisions deals with education.

The Alabama statute requires K-12 schools to determine the legal status of each of its students. This can presumably be done on the first day of school by having the kindergarten teacher begin the day by cheerfully saying to the kindergarteners: “Do we have any illegal aliens with us today?” If no one raises a hand the teacher can go on to other matters. (If a hand is raised the act imposes certain Gestapo like requirements on the school that can be reviewed in Section 28 of the Act. The child may, however, continue as a student. At the college level the rule is different. The Act says an “alien who is not lawfully present in the United States shall not be permitted to enroll in or attend any public postsecondary education institution” in Alabama. That provision will insure that illegal aliens who stay in Alabama undetected will, in addition be uneducated, a condition that may not distinguish them from the legislators who passed the law, and will make it difficult for them to become productive members of society.

As in Hazleton, employers who hire illegal aliens are subject to sanctions that may be enforced by co-workers who are adversely affected by the hiring of the illegal alien. Section 17(a) of the Act says it is a “discriminatory practice for a business entity . . . to fail to hire a job applicant who is a United States citizen. . . . or discharge an employee working in Alabama who is a United States citizen. . . while retaining or hiring an employee who the business entity. . . knows, or reasonably should have known, is an unauthorized alien.” An aggrieved person who is not an “unauthorized alien” may sue and is entitled to compensatory relief. This provision offers employment security to the incompetent worker who cannot be discharged if the employer has an illegal alien on the payroll.

In what might be described as an “anti-hitchhiking” provision, the Alabama bill makes it a crime to transport illegal immigrants in vehicles. It says it is a crime to “transport. . .an alien in furtherance of the unlawful presence of the alien in the United States . . . .” Since driving the alien any distance would further the alien’s unlawful presence it would be best not to pick up hitchhikers in Alabama. On second thought it may be just as well not to visit Alabama. It is joining Hazleton and many states in trying to return to a time when intolerance was king. The U.S. Supreme Court may well turn out to be its most reliable ally.

CORRECTION: In last week’s column I incorrectly stated that Libya hired Goldman Sachs in a fiduciary capacity to invest $1.3 billion. Although that amount was given to Goldman to invest, Libya instructed Goldman what investments to make and the investments were not selected by Goldman.

Christopher Brauchli is a lawyer in Boulder, Colorado. He can be emailed at brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu.




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