The reaction to Monday’s ruling by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals is a case study in the state’s ideological divide, equal parts fascinating and predictable. It is as if fans went to the same game and afterward reported different final scores.
In separate rulings released Monday, the court blocked the state from checking the immigration status of children who enroll in public schools — a significant victory for opponents of the law officially known as the Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act. Count this board among those cheering this part of the court’s decision.
The court also allowed Alabama authorities to continue asking people for immigration documents if there is reason to believe they are in the country illegally — a victory for Gov. Robert Bentley, who signed the bill into law.
Following the ruling, Bentley said the court upheld the “essence” of the law. “The core of Alabama’s immigration law remains that if you live or work in the state, you should do it legally,” he said in a statement.
On Tuesday, the governor reminded the Montgomery Advertiser that he “did not feel (the public-school) part of the bill was necessary.” Additionally, he said it had nothing to do “with the essence of the bill.”
Meanwhile, opponents of HB56 saw a different result — one that furthered their belief that the law is mean-spirited, xenophobic and a stain on the state’s name.
“We are pleased that this ruling has sent a strong message to Alabama and other states that they cannot enact hate-filled laws to try to drive an entire class of people from their borders,” Mary Bauer, Southern Poverty Law Center legal director, told the Birmingham News.
In other words, Alabama’s immigration law continues to live under a cloud of confusion and endless legal wrangling.
This is the slippery slope Bentley and the state’s Republican-led Legislature chose when they foolishly pushed through America’s toughest anti-illegal immigration bill last year. Bentley may believe the bill’s “essence” is couched in sound immigration policy, but the fact remains that embedded in the bill’s “essence” is the message it sends to the world — Alabama would rather immigrants, legal or not, stay away.
Those who advocate for humanity and equality are right to challenge this law in the courts. Alabama’s leaders refuse to see the damage and the shame this law causes. Until lawmakers come to their senses, dismantling it slowly through the courts seems the best option.