What this law will cost: HB56 soils the state’s reputation
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Jul 19, 2011 | 5002 views |  0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The many demerits of Alabama’s new anti-immigrant law have been well-chronicled since Gov. Robert Bentley signed it last month.

It turns Alabama’s state and local law enforcers into border cops, a jurisdiction reserved for the federal government.

The law’s race-tinged posturing against Latinos is inescapable; it’s an ugly return to an old chestnut of Alabama demagogues.

The law turns humanitarian acts such as giving someone a ride to church or the doctor into violations of law if the person given the ride is undocumented.

It applies a fresh coat of ugly to Alabama’s reputation. That’s a shame given the number of good Alabamians who have struggled to overcome this legacy left to us by racists who once ran this state.

It wasted the time of legislators who would have made better use of their brief time in session by finding new sources of revenue to bolster Alabama’s miserly budget.

Here’s one more problem with the undocumented-workers law: Money. Specifically, there remains a question over how state and local governments will come up with the cash to enforce the law.

It’s standard operating procedure for the Legislature to come up with an estimate for how much any new legislation will cost. That’s the job of the Legislative Fiscal Office. Unfortunately, the agency was unable to provide lawmakers with a price tag before the session ended. An official estimate is expected this week.

Our guess on the estimate is simple: The anti-immigrant law will cost more than Alabama governments have.

Already, local courthouses, prosecutors and law enforcers are facing major cutbacks; almost all of these agencies have less staff to handle more work. Now we can throw in alleged illegal immigrants into that growing to-do list. As local Circuit Clerk Ted Hooks told The Star’s Tim Lockette, “I guess they’ll have to wait in line with everybody else.”

Since we are in a speculating mood, let us ponder motivations of those Republicans (and some Democrats) who ushered HB56 into law.

It would be a stretch for these so-called fiscal conservatives to claim the law is about saving money. How can they when no one knows how much enforcement will cost state and local governments?

It would be tough to see how our Tea Partying leaders can claim this is a states’ rights issue. The Constitution is crystal clear that the federal government oversees international borders and immigration. (However, we should grant that the feds have under-performed in this arena.)

What about illegal immigration being a pressing issue for the state? Not likely. The Pew Research Center estimates 120,000 of Alabama’s 5 million residents are undocumented immigrants. Lawmakers would have been smarter to address the approximately 1 million Alabamians said to be functionally illiterate.

We’re back to the biggest clue we’ve seen thus far. It comes from a confusion voiced by the bill’s House of Representatives sponsor. After the bill passed the Legislature, Rep. Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, claimed that it was needed because Alabama had the second-fastest growing population of illegal immigrants. That’s not accurate. Turns out Hammon was confused; Alabama has the second-fastest growing Hispanic population.

We wish we were more confident that the governor and those lawmakers who supported HB56 understood that Hispanic does not equal illegal immigrant. We are not.
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What this law will cost: HB56 soils the state’s reputation by The Anniston Star Editorial Board

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