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SUNDAY, JANUARY 28, 2007
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Legislature to debate immigration

MONTGOMERY (AP) — The influx of Hispanic immigrants into Alabama communities is expected to be a major issue in the upcoming session of the Alabama Legislature, with a number of measures being drafted to curb it.

Republican Gov. Bob Riley said he expects to mention immigration reform as one of his priorities when he gives his “State of the State” speech March 6 at the start of the 2007 session. Republicans and Democrats both made the issue a priority during last year’s election campaigns.

Immigrant law specialists voice caution on the issue and Hispanic advocates say proposals have been unfair or misplaced. But so far, bills being proposed by the governor and legislators would: send to jail employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants, prevent illegal immigrants from receiving many state services and make it a crime for them to give false information to register to vote.

Riley said he would also like to see the Legislature pass a measure to prohibit companies that “knowingly hire illegal aliens” from doing business with the state. He said the proposal would require company officials to sign an affidavit saying they don’t have illegal aliens on their payroll before being offered state contracts.

“We want to ask that if anyone is doing business with the state that they sign an affidavit saying they are not doing it with illegal immigrants,” Riley said.

But a Montgomery attorney who specializes in immigration law, Boyd Campbell, said there is not currently an accurate way for employers to make sure that workers are in the United States illegally. He also said a “get tough” policy on hiring immigrants could harm farmers and other employers who depend on immigrant workers.

“The Legislature needs to be very careful when it starts penalizing employers for hiring illegal workers. The system that is in place for a farmer to verify that a worker is legal is very inadequate,” Campbell said.

Much of the push for immigration legislation is coming from legislators from North Alabama, where large numbers of immigrants have come looking for jobs in construction, agriculture and the poultry industry.

“Our area is really flooded with immigrants at this time,” said Rep. Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, who said he plans to introduce a package of immigration bills, similar to legislation he sponsored last session.

Newly elected Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, said he ran for election partly on the issue of strengthening immigration laws. He said he hopes to work with Riley on passing a strong immigration package of bills.

Orr said one major problem caused by the influx of immigrants is that it has created “a second economy” in many areas, where employers pay workers cash under the table without offering any benefits or even paying taxes.

Proposals on issue

Immigration proposals being considered by governor and legislators:

  • Expand program to train state troopers to identify illegal immigrants.
  • Make it a crime for employers to knowingly hire illegal immigrants.
  • Prohibit companies that hire illegal immigrants from doing business with the state.
  • Prevent immigrants who are in the country illegally from receiving state services.
  • Require that state agencies issue or renew commercial and professional licenses and permits only to people who are in the U.S. legally.
  • The Associated Press

    Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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