Alabama lawmakers passed a bill Wednesday revising the state’s controversial immigration law, known as the toughest in the nation. Lawmakers were hoping to fend off more legal challenges to the bill, but critics say the changes make the law even harsher.
The existing law, known as HB 56, sparked lawsuits from members of the Obama administration and immigrant rights groups who argue that it is unconstitutional and encourages discrimination and racial profiling.
Alabama businesses, especially farmers, have also spoken out against the law, saying it has driven away Hispanic workers. Farmers depend upon immigrant labor, and since the new law went into effect produce has rotted in the fields and farms have cut back on production.
Proponents of the law say it is designed to drive out illegal immigrants, thereby protecting jobs for citizens.
One of the provisions requires police making traffic stops to try to determine the immigration status of anyone they suspect isn’t in the state lawfully. The new measure, known as HB 658, largely keeps the old law intact and doesn’t address the parts being challenged in federal court. The state governor will have the final say on whether to sign the bill into law or veto it.
Changes include requiring the Alabama Department of Homeland Security to post online the names of undocumented immigrants who appear in state courts; critics argue this could lead to harassment and vigilantism.
The new measure also allows a personto be detained for up to 48 hours while authorities determine their immigration status. It also clarifies the types of documents that can be used as official identification.
Protesters marched outside the Alabama House and Senate chambers and at least seven were arrested, a reflection of the larger immigration debate raging across the U.S.