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Task force to advise legislators on immigration

By Phillip Rawls
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Legislature, which had no more success with immigration legislation than Congress did, has put together a task force to study the issue and make recommendations to the lawmakers for next year.

State Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, said the introduction and failure of several immigration bills in the spring session showed that the Legislature needs to take a more organized approach that begins with gathering the facts.

"Frankly, we don't know what to do about immigration," he said Wednesday at the first meeting of the Joint Interim Patriotic Immigration Commission.

Beason sponsored the resolution that the Legislature passed to create the commission after every immigration crackdown bill introduced by him and others stalled. The commission's 21 members were appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the House.

The commission includes legislators, legal immigrants, an immigration attorney and representatives of the timber, poultry, construction and manufacturing industries.

State Rep. Randy Hinshaw, who sponsored legislation to increase the penalties for hiring illegal immigrants, is one of six legislators on the commission. The Democrat from Meridianville said he hopes business interests on the commission won't try to maintain the status quo.

"I'm keeping an open mind," he said.

The commission elected Jay Reed, vice president of the Associated Builders and Contractors, as chairman, and elected Beason as vice chairman after he lost the chairmanship race.

Reed, who was appointed to the commission by Gov. Bob Riley, said he wants the commission to "take a balanced look" at the issue.

Boyd Campbell, an immigration attorney from Montgomery, said states have been rushing to enact laws because "the federal immigration system is dysfunctional" and Congress can't agree on a solution. The result, he said, is a hodgepodge of laws.

Riley appointee Patricia DeVane, who immigrated from Guatemala 25 years ago and now owns a language school in Dothan, became a U.S. citizen 16 years ago. She said many illegal immigrants now operating outside the system would operate within the system if they could get work permits that would allow them to travel between the United States and their homeland.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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